As a supporter of equal opportunities in education, all University of Wisconsin System universities advocate for the use of universal design in education.
The concept of universal design holds that all designs should attempt to optimize usability for everyone, regardless of abilities. Universal design has been used in architecture through concepts such as curb cuts and ramps which have benefited all people.
In a classroom, providing handouts in an accessible electronic format is also a method of universal design. Universal design requires no prior knowledge of a disability. Everything is created to be as totally and universally accessible as possible. This includes the physical environment, the information environment and the curricular environment.
The hope is that all UW universities will advocate to:
- Develop policies and procedures that support universal design;
- Plan on all levels to consider universal design principles and;
- Identify and support architectural, informational, and curricular experts on each campus to serve as resources in these areas.
The concept of accommodation is a “back-end” approach to meeting student needs. It is inefficient and more costly than universal design. Accommodation requires students to self-identify as having a disability and is intolerant of error. It is also inherently inequitable due to the fact that special services require special or 1:1 effort.