In the beginning, education and in particular post-secondary education focused almost
exclusively on teaching those who were seen as having the required skills, abilities and
characteristics to succeed and learn. Even in elementary and secondary school the focus was on
learners of obviously demonstrated and evident average or above average ability. It was expected
that these students could and would demonstrate, in a uniform standardized way – typically on
tests and examinations – that they had acquired the knowledge and skills that their teachers had
imparted to them. Those who were the most successful went on to post-secondary education. The
majority did not do so. But at that time, many people were able to obtain and maintain
employment without necessarily having to go to college or university.Students with disabilities
either did not attend school at all or were placed in settings where the focus typically was not on
academic achievement. Then came the era of special education.
In the last twenty three years, special education has been an important part of what school boards
were expected to provide. While there is still a long way to go to ensure that every student with
disabilities is catered for in every way possible, the situation has improved considerably by the
use of universal design principles but a lot more is yet to be done.
Designing any product or environment involves the consideration of many factors, including
aesthetics, engineering options, environmental issues, safety concerns, industry standards, and
cost. Often the design is created for the “average” user. In contrast, “universal design (UD)” is,
according to The Center for Universal Design, “the design of products and environments to be
usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or
specialized design”
When UD principles are applied in a postsecondary institution, educational products and
environments meet the needs of potential students with a wide variety of characteristics. UD
requires consideration of all characteristics of potential users, including abilities and disabilities,
when developing a course or service. Making a product or an environment accessible to people
with disabilities often benefits others. For example, while automatic door openers benefit
students, faculty, and staff using walkers and wheelchairs, they also benefit people carrying
books and holding babies, as well as elderly citizens. Sidewalk curb cuts, designed to make
sidewalks and streets accessible to those using wheelchairs, are also used by kids on skateboards,
parents with baby strollers, and delivery staff with rolling carts. When video displays in airports
and restaurants are captioned, they benefit people who cannot hear the audio because of a noisy
environment as well as those who are deaf.
UD is a goal that puts a high value on both diversity and inclusiveness.


Former Directors

  • Prof. Saggaf

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