Other Applications of Universal Design in Educational Settings

In addition to the field of architecture and product design, the concept of anticipating diversity among users and designing features to make environments and products accessible by a broad range of people has relevance to other fields, most notably, education. Additional initiatives to extend the concept of universal design to education have emerged, and they are described in order to delineate other approaches to accessible instructional environments.

Beginning in the 1980s, the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), a not-for-profit organization, has engaged in efforts “to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through the research and development of innovative, technology-based educational resources and strategies”. CAST’s approach is based upon Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with a particular focus on students in the K-12 system and the use of technology to support the goal of differentiated instruction.

Another initiative, funded at the University of Guelph in Canada, studied universal instructional design (UID), a model used by faculty who applied the seven principles from North Carolina State University’s Center for Universal Design (CUD). Although this study’s funding ended in 2003, preliminary results showed a significant relationship between the level of UID in a course and students’ sense of self-efficacy.

A third approach is Universal Design of Instruction (UDI). A model developed by the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) Center at the University of Washington, Universal Design of Instruction embraces both the principles of Universal Design (UD) and those of Universal Design of Learning (UDL) to operationalize practices that can be employed by educators to maximize the learning of all students. Checklists based on UD and UDL principles are available for the application of UD to instruction but also to technology, student services, and physical environments.

Finally, Universal Design in Education (UDE) is the phrase proposed by Bowe in 2000 meaning “the preparation of curriculum materials, and environments so that they can be used, appropriately and with ease, by a wide variety of people.” He suggested ways that UDE could be applied across the educational continuum including continuing and adult education. The broad spectrum of UDE practices are also promoted by DO-IT's Center for Universal Design in Education. While each of these approaches is grounded in the work of the CUD at North Carolina State University, implementation initiatives as well as guiding principles are not uniform.