Law schools teach law and introduce the values that students take into the legal profession. Unless law schools embrace universal design, they will continue to be inequitable and pose barriers to people who might be good lawyers. This is the basis of an article by Matthew Timko where he says the place to introduce universal design is through law libraries.
Timko says the law library is the ideal testing ground for changes that assist student comprehension and testing. Beginning with the library services, the value of universal design will gradually become apparent to all stakeholders. From there it will enter the legal academy, legal education process and legal profession.
Timko uses the 7 Principles of Universal design as the framework for his proposition. This shows how flexibly the principles can be applied. He then discusses the role of disability legislation in the United States and the supports available.
Ethical and professional standards provide another opportunity to support individuals. Timko argues that most accommodations pose menial burdens on institutions but provide great benefit to individuals. However, they need to be provided as a general rule, not just when they are asked for. This is the underlying tenet of universal design for learning.
The article goes into more detail about the role of legislation and how it should apply to law schools. In the conclusion, Timko states:
“Universal design offers the key to not only increased access to legal education and legal knowledge but also a more fundamental shift in the perceptions and thinking that have plagued disability laws and design habits over the last 30 years.”
The types of universal design features discussed can be introduced into the law library gradually and in cost-effective ways.
The title of the article is, Applying Universal Design in the Legal Academy.
From the editor
I was invited to participate in a question and answer interview for the Law Society Journal with Features Editor, Avril Janks. I was encouraged to find that universal design has entered the realms of the legal profession and happy to participate.
We discussed universal design broadly and then how it might be implemented in legal workplaces. Universal design can be applied to the office design, office systems, and employment practice. So plenty of scope for the profession to be more inclusive. If you want to read the article published in the March 2023 edition, contact firstname.lastname@example.org