Seamless access on campus is a top priority at Disability Resources. We think about access broadly, beyond disability accommodations, taking into account the largest potential group of users. While access to campus experiences is required, we are committed to a concept of design that minimizes barriers and cultivates a welcoming and inclusive campus for our diverse community.
Shift your focus. Consider that it is the environment that presents barriers to participation and use. It is the environment that is inaccessible. If we locate the “problem” in the environment, rather than within the disabled individual, we can more effectively create a campus culture that values access. Design makes a statement about who and what we value—inclusive design demonstrates our commitment to welcoming and valuing all individuals.
As you design curriculum, events and policy, consider a diverse audience and strive to eliminate the need to treat some people differently, through individual accommodations or other separate systems. Design has the power to include or exclude, to make us feel competent or incompetent. As the designers of University environments, we are the ones who create those experiences. How would it feel to be excluded by design?
Many event planners, instructors and policy makers are stifled by a narrow focus on ADA compliance. This pressure can inhibit good design. If we expand our concept of access beyond reasonable accommodation and strive to develop classes and programming that are usable by the greatest number of consumers, we will truly achieve inclusive environments.
Inclusive, accessible design benefits everyone.
Here are few practices that contribute to inclusiveness:
- Eliminate the need for a separate entrance by creating an accessible main entrance that all audience members use to enter and exit together.
- Provide materials electronically, ahead of time, so individuals have an option to modify size and contrast of documents. Many individuals benefit from receiving materials in advance so they may become familiar with content, print documents or read along during a presentation.
- Use good, clear signage to identify accessible features.
- Strive to make the experience of disabled and non-disabled consumers as equitable as possible, eliminating additional burden on disabled individuals.
Center for Universal Design
Burgstahler, S.E., & Cory, R.C. (2008). Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press