Universal Design Engineering for Learners

A blueprint of three interlocking cog wheels.We need a diversity blueprint to help students learn whether it’s a webinar, lecture, or e-learning course. According to Keith Edyburn that means taking an engineering approach to universal design for learning (UDL). He reports on nine case studies and introduces the Design for More Types model. The aim is to turn design concepts into practical “active ingredients that can be carefully defined, measured and evaluated”. Edyburn claims personal commitment to the principles of UDL is not sufficient to enhance student engagement. The table below is from the paper, where Edyburn looks at both targeted learners and others who also benefit. 

Table shows the design feature, the Primary Beneficiary and the Secondary Beneficiary.

The thrust of this paper Universal Design Engineering, is that theory is all very well but doesn’t actually make it happen. If you take a practical engineering approach, you are more likely to engage students and increase their success rate. There is more detail about turning information into digital text, testing designs, and determining cost-benefit.

The paper is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication. 


Music and Universal Design

men and women in dark blue shirts are signing. The bow of a violin is also visible with the orchestra in the background.It’s often assumed that music education programs are not something for people who a deaf. An article in the Journal of American Sign Languages & Literatures says this is not so. Using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach, the authors challenge these preconceptions. The article begins, ” Music is not bound to a single modality, language, or culture, but few music education programs represent a multimodal spectrum of music…” and overlook the contribution of Deaf culture. There is no one way of engaging with music, so different ways of experiencing the sensory, linguistic and cultural diversity of music is something music education practitioner might like to look at. The title of the article is Universal Design for Music: Exploring the Intersection of Deaf Education and Music Education

An Auslan interpretation of Handel’s Messiah was performed by a Deaf choir in 2015 at the Sydney Opera House. The video below is of the complete two hour concert where there is interpreting throughout by individuals and groups. If you just want the Hallelujah Chorus where all interpreters get involved, go to 1hour 38 minutes into the video.



Lights, Camera, Action: Training actors with disability

A man stands against a greenbox bacground with lights and cameras around himWhat’s involved in training actors with disability? This is one topic that needs a lot more exploration now that people with disability are being included in productions. One place to start is the material that’s been developed for Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Deric McNish’s book chapter, Training Actors with Disabilities, provides an interesting perspective on the issues and discusses various approaches to theatre courses. You will need institutional access for a free read. The chapter can be purchased from SpringerLink.

Abstract: This essay presents accessible training methods for students with disabilities in college acting, voice, and movement courses. It presents teaching strategies selected from a survey of prominent professors, as well as from actors with disabilities that have worked professionally and completed an actor training program. This paper presents some valuable perspectives on a largely unexplored topic and offers multiple approaches, including ways to adapt popular acting, voice, speech, and movement pedagogies for the greatest variety of students, ways to effectively communicate with college students with disabilities, ways to apply Universal Design for Learning in practice-based theatre courses, and responsible strategies for portraying disability identity during in-class scene work.


Universal Design for non-designers

overhead view of a table with several laptops open. One person is handing another a documentThe concept of universal design is not the sole responsibility of people who consider themselves a designer. Universal design and inclusive practice involves everyone regardless whether they are a trained designer, a policy writer, an academic, a dancer or a carpenter. It’s difficult enough to appeal to trained designers to think inclusion throughout their design process, let alone getting non-designers on board with this concept. A group in China is looking at ways to reach out to non-designers for a cross-disciplinary approach to universal design education. Their paper, A Strategy on Introducing Inclusive Design Philosophy to Non-design Background Undergraduates, focuses on how to integrate design in what they term, crossover education, with non-design students. You will need institutional access to SpringerLink for a free read.  If not, try the Google Books link for a few more pages.

Abstract: Focusing on how to integrating design into crossover-education, which is a controversial topic in china’s education. And in china, all china’s colleges and universities are trying their best to set up crossover education. Cause firstly they all think that it is vital important for the college students to broaden their horizon, secondly, more and more projects need diverse and professional genius to cooperate to be finished. They need to know the design thinking. But the problem is coming, differing from design-major background students, how to make design curriculum transforming a better and easier way to accept and assimilate by the other background students. How to cultivate the design thinking in crossover education, I think, which is the most things we as educator need to concentrate. This paper focuses on how to introduce inclusive design philosophy to non-design background undergraduates. This is one of the parts of a research project “Applied universities’ design education reform and practice based on the principle of inclusive design” supported by the Shanghai Education Science Research Program (Grant No. C17067).


Not Stupid, just Dyslexic

A boy sits at a desk, pen in hand ready to write on the paper.Going out of your way to find a solution for one group of people doesn’t always work. That’s what they found when they tried to find the best solutions for helping people with dyslexia. It turned out that the best solutions were those that made reading easier for everyone – the universal design approach. The special reading and writing solutions set them apart and made people “feel stupid”. The conclusion of this study therefore advises that it is better to work within the universal design paradigm than try to develop separate materials for people with dyslexia. The title of the paper is, “I’m not Stupid” – Attitudes Towards Adaptation Among People with Dyslexia. It is available from SpringerLink but you will need institutional access for a free read. It is also a book chapter in International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction.

Abstract: A significant portion of the population have dyslexia, which is commonly associated with reading and writing difficulties. In the context of developing materials well-suited for users with reading disorders, one solution has been to develop materials especially targeted at dyslexic users. However, how are the attitudes among users with dyslexia towards adaptation? In this paper, we report the findings from qualitative interviews with 20 adults with dyslexia. The main finding was that they were sceptical towards adapted products, among others because it made them “feel stupid” and because the adapted format affected the reading experience negatively. In this paper we argue to instead work within the universal design paradigm, trying to develop products and services usable by all people, thus reducing the need for particular user groups to utilise “special solutions”.


UD for Learning: An indigenous perspective

Placed in a rural setting a wooden barn type building displays the cultural icons and two totem poles of the Alaskan NativesThe education system in Alaska is an interesting place to research the potential for applying the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) in a culturally diverse and indigenous context. The article by Krista James explores examples of implementation of the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators within a UDL framework. Similarly to Australia, Alaska’s indigenous population has experienced loss of culture and forced assimilation with Western educational systems taking over the education of their children. James concludes that the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators and the UDL framework are not just easy to connect, but many of the standards are already ingrained in the core principles of UDL. You don’t have to be an educator to appreciate this article.

The title of the article is: “Universal Design for Learning as a Structure for Culturally Responsive Practice”, in the Northwest Journal of Teacher Education. 2018. There is a link to a 30 minute video at the end of the article.


Inclusive practice in higher education

Cover page of the Journal of Inclusive practice in further and higher education.The latest edition of the Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education includes papers from the International Conference held in 2015. All articles include the concept of universal design in learning with a focus on neurodiversity.  It covers methods and research in higher education and transition to work. Contributions to this journal encourage emancipatory methods with neurodiverse people, particularly involving their personal experiences.  The Journal is published in Word format therefore making it widely accessible.