Disability & Design Institute

Program Overview 

Made possible by a grant from the Provost’s Investment Fund, the Disability & Design Institute seeks to expand and reframe thinking about disability by focusing on dynamics of community, culture, power, and privilege, with an emphasis on the important role design plays in access and inclusion.  

Disability is a sociopolitical construction and, to think about it as such, in our meetings we critically analyze how language, design, media, and policy shape the way disability is conceptualized in society and operationalized in post-secondary education. Central to the Institute is an exploration of ableism and the many ways ableism is institutionalized in higher education.  

Meetings provide opportunities for cohort members to more authentically understand the disability experience and the impact of design choices by incorporating narratives, guest speakers, and media to add a richer and more personal element to discussions.  

The cohort meets monthly from October through May. We begin with a focus on disability dynamics and then create opportunity for participants to apply universal design to a particular area of their practice (i.e., curricular design, event planning). The Institute will culminate in a Universal Design Symposium for campus in which participants will showcase their projects. At each meeting, participants will be encouraged to share current events or questions related to disability or accessibility for group discussion. 

Specific topics will include:  

  • Models of disability
  • Ableism
  • Legal foundations  
  • Universal Design
  • Language
  • Media
  • Athletics
  • Activism

Participants are expected to attend each meeting in person, though Zoom options will be available as needed. With the exception of the retreat on October 4, 2024, and the Universal Design Summit on April 17, 2025, all meetings will take place in Highland Commons B-116, 8:30am– 1:00pm and will include a light breakfast and lunch. 

Sample agenda 

8:30am – 9:00am Optional breakfast 

9:00am - Noon Discussion and activities 

Noon – 1:00pm Lunch and discuss current national and campus events and questions  


Date Topic Time
October 4, 2024 Kick-off Retreat - Framing and Foundations 8:30am – 4:00pm 
November 1, 2024 University Disability Resource Centers  8:30am – 1:00pm 
December 6, 2024 Biases and Microaggressions 8:30am – 1:00pm 
January 24, 2025 Universal Design and
Universal Design for Learning 
8:30am – 1:00pm
February 21, 2025 Digital Accessibility and
Inclusive Communications
8:30am – 1:00pm
March 21, 2025 Inclusive Event Planning 8:30am – 1:00pm
April 17, 2025 Universal Design Summit TBD 
May 2, 2025 Institute Wrap-Up 8:30am – 1:00pm


Each year, we look to recruit 12-15 faculty and staff members to the Disability & Design Institute cohort. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and we prioritize a diverse cohort in terms of discipline, position type, and interests.