The autism research field has changed a lot in the last 20 years. One of the key findings is the impact the research process has on people with autism. So including the voices of people with autism is really important. With this in mind, a new version of a text book has sections written by autistic contributors from all walks of life. Neurodiversity is a relatively new concept and area of study. There is still much work to do in understanding the diversity of ways autistic people navigate the world around them.
There is a separatelink to the discussion on how the authors went about including people with the lived experience of autism. This link also gives a short chapter by chapter review of the book’s content.
The title of the book is, Autism: A new introduction to psychological theory and current debate. It’s by Sue Fletcher-Watson and Francesca Happe.
Two people give their perspective on inclusive (or not) education. One is a teacher, the other a student with a disability. Their opening statements provide a context for the article. They trace some of their experiences seeking to overcome barriers to inclusive education, classrooms and teaching. The teacher’s experiences show that colleagues were, and are not, interested in inclusive education. Students with disability lack a voice and are separated into special education classes. The student story includes an action project – taking fellow students to the streets to photograph barriers to inclusion and making a case to the mayor. Both the teacher and the student conclude by saying they want to find ways of helping people with disability advocate for themselves. Clearly, no-one is listening at the moment. Bottom line: there is much academic writing about universal design for learning (UDL), but it seems policy and practice still lag far behind.
At last some joined up thinking. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to create inclusive learning environments. But academic articles tend to be about UD in the built environment or UD for learning, but not both. An recent paper links both UD and UDL as the way forward for the inclusion of learners with diverse needs. The authors share experiences and four case studies from South Africa and the United States. They cover environmental issues, professional development, barriers to inclusion and a vision for developing inclusive learning environments. The paper offers five compelling recommendations:
• Focus on the functional needs of students, staff and campus visitors and do not judge based upon labels used. Students vary greatly in the nature of their needs, even within a particular area of disability.
• Make inclusion and accessibility a campus-wide dialogue. Everyone needs to be included in identifying the needs and the solutions. It is not an endeavour for the disability units or teaching staff only.
• Build a systemic foundation using inclusive models for educational design, such as UD and UDL, applicable to facilities management, teaching faculty, support services and admission procedures.
• Leverage technology to support inclusion, rather than letting it become a barrier.
• Reach out to others for ideas and help in addressing challenges. There are many great resources and organisations that support inclusive education principles, and we recommend that higher education institutions use them.
The title of the article is, Inclusion, universal design and universal design for learning in higher education: South Africa and the United States.
First there was closed captioning and then live captioning. Audio describing came along soon afterwards. Now we have the possibility of “simultaneous simplification”. Two researchers wanted to ensure people with various cognitive conditions could participate in a conference. Using audio transcribing facilities, interpreters simplified the language of the speakers in real time.
After the conference they interviewed participants and found people with significant cognitive conditions were able to fully participate in a professional conference. Participants also retained the information a few weeks later. Of course, people who don’t speak the language of the speaker also benefit. The title of the short paper is, Simultaneous Simplification: Stretching the Boundaries of UDL.
Editor’s note: I’d like to see academics writing for the general population instead of writing in academic code for the benefit of other academics. Useful knowledge on many things would become more readily available to everyone. It’s time to have universally designed academic papers.
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.
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.
For anyone who has not encountered the term Universal Design for Learning, this is an instructive 4 minute video. It links the concepts of an inclusive built environment with inclusive learning programs and practices. Good for teachers, trainers, lecturers and anyone interested in inclusive practice. There are three key aspects to UDL:
Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn
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.
What’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.
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”.
The 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.