Normalizing Universal Design: Strategies from Three Diverse Institutions
Concurrent Session 5
Institutions of higher education are increasingly committed to making Universal Design and accessibility an integral part of their campus cultures. In this session, representatives from three diverse institutions of higher education will provide specific, practical, and effective approaches for prioritizing and normalizing Universal Design and accessibility on their campuses.
Institutions of higher education are increasingly committed to making Universal Design an integral part of the campus culture and the overall workflow of the university. Although some of this commitment stems from the legal risk associated with a lack of compliance, campus stakeholders have begun to see Universal Design as not only an ethical imperative but also a necessary means to increase student success and retention.
Based upon how institutions are structured, commitment to Universal Design and inclusive excellence can take on a variety of forms. Often, institutions are required to develop a multi-pronged approach to ensure that all spaces, materials, experiences, and services are equally accessible by everyone in the campus community. While 100% compliance is the typically the goal, this benchmark can be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without significant investment from a wide range of stakeholders at all levels within the institution. Accessibility in higher education can no longer be the exclusive responsibility of campus resource centers or provided only through accommodations to students who identify that they have a need. Indeed, many disabilities that provide barriers to success are invisible, and even acknowledging that one has a disability still comes with a social stigma. Therefore, it is imperative that colleges and universities address accessibility through a Universal Design approach that leverages the wide range of resources available to them.
In this session, representatives from three diverse institutions of higher education will share their approaches to normalizing Universal Design as an integral part of their campus cultures. This session presents a unique opportunity for participants to hear a range of methods for bringing a culture of Universal Design to their institutions. Although some materials will be provided related to principles and practices of Universal Design, this session will focus more on strategies for initiating campus conversations that adopt Universal Design as fundamental to the success of all students, faculty, and staff. Presenters will begin the session with a poll using Poll Everywhere to gauge participants’ background and interest in Universal Design, and then presenters from each institution will provide brief descriptions of their campus-based approaches. Audience members will be encouraged to ask questions and contribute informally to the discussion throughout, and halfway through the session, presenters will facilitate a 2- to 3-minute peer table discussion followed by a report-out to the large group. Participants will leave the session with specific and practical strategies to implement on their own campuses to further Universal Design and accessibility for all.
Listed below are descriptions of the Universal Design work that each of the three institutions is currently doing:
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) partnered with the Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) to develop resources for instructors to design their courses with Universal Design in mind. This collaboration has resulted in an Accessibility Training and Resource site for instructors using the LMS platform Canvas. This site has two purposes: one is to provide just-in-time resources related to accommodations and Universal Design; the other is to provide a formal online training opportunity that can lead to the UWM Certificate in Accessibility for Instructors, which is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, CETL, and ARC. In addition, CETL and ARC have devised a beginning-of-the-semester checklist for Universal Design that instructors can use in developing their courses. The online training and resource site and the checklist are intended to be practical tools to help instructors make their courses more accessible to all students using Universal Design principles. In addition, UW-Milwaukee has integrated into their instance of Canvas an API developed at the University of Central Florida called UDOIT, which provides a quick and easy way for instructors to check their Canvas course sites for accessibility issues. A focus on Universal Design that is embedded in pedagogy is simply one part of UW-Milwaukee’s approach that also includes ensuring compliance of all web materials and spaces on campus.
The Educational Technology Services (ETS) division has partnered with the campus Accessible Technology Analyst and the Provost Office to create a three-fold strategy around the Universal Design for Learning by coordinating initiatives, programs and implementations in Fall 2019. 1) In Fall 2018, Chapman University Information Technology Services implemented the Blackboard Ally Platform. The idea was to ensure that faculty had the tools to create and host accessible digital content for courses. A Fall pilot was initiated by the Accessible Technology Analyst during their intensive workshop series. Several faculty users came together for a recent panel discussion and have become informal campus ambassadors for the Bb Ally Platform. 2) In line with selecting the next modern LMS for Summer 2019, the ETS team is providing instructional design and technology consulting in leveraging both Bb Ally and the new Modern LMS platform. In combining the branding as the “Modern LMS and Accessibility,” they are creating a partnership and communication campaign with the Provost Office’s Diversity & Inclusion initiative to strategically scale campus-wide Universal Design workshop during the LMS transition process Fall 2019. 3) Additionally, the Provost’s Institute of Excellence in Teaching & Learning is delivering their annual Summer Academy in late summer, which provides the opportunity to reach up to 100 faculty. The Academy leadership is willing to widen their focus on Universal Design for Learning, to include programming for both Bb Ally and the Modern LMS. An instructional designer will be hired to facilitate the workshop partnership with vendors (Modern LMS & Bb Ally) that will blend into the 2019/2020 academic year.
Loyola University Chicago
At Loyola University Chicago, Instructional Technology & Research Support (ITRS), the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy (FCIP), the Office of Online Learning (OOL), and the Student Accessibility Center (SAC) partnered to create an Accessibility Roadmap for faculty building new courses or revising existing ones. This resource was developed using the core principles of Universal Design for Learning and serves as a framework for validating course navigation, content, and activities meet accessibility standards. This initiative was launched in mid-2017, piloted for several months, and fully implemented in Fall 2018. It continues to drive ITRS, FCIP, and OOL faculty consultations and small group trainings. SAC also references this resource regularly in conversations with faculty. This multifaceted model has been successful in not only providing higher quality courses, but also in generating a greater awareness of accessibility across the institution.
In January 2019, Loyola expanded its accessibility efforts with an investment in hardware and software, staff training, and targeted outreach to the University community. Lab and other public access computers were upgraded to better handle more powerful applications. Vision impaired and accessibility testing products were identified and purchased from Freedom Scientific. JAWS for Windows, a screen reader application was installed on upgraded computers in SAC and other student areas. JAWS Inspect, an accessibility testing tool was installed in academic departments offering online courses, and in dedicated faculty consultation spaces. Additionally, Freedom Scientific provided JAWS training to staff from ITRS, FCIP, OOL, and SAC. A communication plan is currently in the works to better inform students, faculty, and staff of JAWS availability and user support.