UDL Week 2: What’s happening at UPEI?

Yesterday we discussed a general overview of Universal Design for Learning’s goals and guidelines. Today we want to focus on what is currently happening at UPEI in regards to accessibility.

(Many thanks to Cathy Rose, Coordinator of Accessibility Services, for her help with this post. Accessibility Services provides crucial support to UPEI students and we couldn’t be doing any of this important work without Cathy and her team!)

UPEI Accessibility Services (link), located in Student Affairs, W.A. Murphy Student Centre, provides services for UPEI students including program planning for academic accommodation, assistance with identification of learning disabilities, exam accommodation, note taking, tutoring, transition planning, access to specialized learning technology, and much more. Accessibility Services takes pride in working with students to identify strategies to help students accomplish their academic goals.

Accessibility Services does amazing work helping students navigate their academic responsibilities and the demand for Accessibility Services increases each year. In 2009-2010, there were 126 UPEI students registered with Accessibility Services. In the current academic year, 2015-2016, there are 433 UPEI students registered for support from Accessibility Services. If the number of students requiring additional support continues to increase (and we hope it does!), the current model of support will not be sustainable.

Research shows that 9% of the student body will disclose a disability and take advantage of academic accommodations, but an equal amount will not disclose (Lombardi & Murray, 2010). The students registered with Accessibility Services represent a wide range of disabilities or impairments that include learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, physical disabilities (arthritis, spinal cord injury, hearing and vision loss), mental health disabilities, Aspergers/autism, neurological (cerebral palsy, epilepsy, MS, stroke), acquired brain injury, post concussion syndrome, PTSD, etc. The fastest growing segments are students on the spectrum with ASDs (autism/Aspergers) and students with mental health/psychological disorders.

So what is a sustainable model for supporting an increasingly diverse group of learners? We’re glad you asked!

shovel the ramp

We think this comic (click to enlarge) really captures what Universal Design for Learning is all about. By designing learning that is inclusive of all learners, we are required to spend less time accommodating students with disabilities. UDL provides multiple pathways to meeting learning outcomes, by providing multiple means of representation (presenting information or content in different ways), multiple means of action and expression (allowing diversity and choice in learning tasks and differentiating assessment), and multiple means of engagement (providing opportunities for students to become self-directed learners by engaging in different ways).

You are probably already using principles of UDL without even realizing it. When you post notes in advance, design assessments that allow students time to review their work, or use multiple formats of evaluation, you are being inclusive of different types of learners. Tomorrow, we will explore some simple, realistic strategies for using UDL in your teaching.

In the meantime, don’t forget to chime in on our Twitter backchannel using the #UPEIUDL hashtag! If you have any questions about using UDL in your courses, contact the E-Learning Office!

References

Lombardi, A.R.,  & Murray, C. (2010). Measuring university faculty attitudes toward disability: Willingness to accommodate and adopt Universal Design principles. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 34, 43–56.