Page 30 - THE Journal, June/July 2017
P. 30

| JUNE/JULY 2017
Universal design refers to the design of products and environments so that they are usable by everyone, to the greatest extent possible.
they purchase has already been vetted for accessibility. In fact, it is not yet the norm for people to be thinking about building accessibility into the content and delivery systems for online learning, said Skip Stahl, co-director of the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. “That is starting to change,” he said. “We are starting to see some products emerging
in the marketplace that are paying close attention to accessibility features, but in many cases there is a lot of awareness- raising that needs to occur — both on the consumer end and the producer end.”
Stahl said that when OCR comes in and does an analysis based on a complaint, they will look at everything, not just the district website. “It is important in the procurement process to address those issues right up front, so they are not caught off guard
and have to retrofit or change learning materials midstream.”
Universal Design for Learning
In 2015 DO-IT’s Burgstahler called attention to the concept of universal design in an article titled, “How can K–12 educators promote the use of accessible technology in schools?”
“Universal design refers to the design of products and environments so that they are usable by everyone, to the greatest extent possible,” she wrote. “A teacher is applying universal design when he purchases curriculum with built-in, multiple, and
flexible methods of presentation, expression and engagement. The manager of a computer lab is applying universal design when he purchases adjustable tables in anticipation of students who are small or large in stature or who use wheelchairs.”
In fact, legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama in December 2015, guides states and local agencies to incorporate universal design concepts.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has several core principles, said Stahl, who also is project director for the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). One is providing multiple representations of information — not just paper-based instructional materials, but as many ways as material can be presented to students as possible, such as video, audio, tactile- manipulative, to give all students options for what types of materials they access
to gain information. A good example
is making sure that videos have text captions or that podcasts have transcripts or simultaneous captions. It addresses the accessibility issues but also provides alternatives for every student, Stahl said.
The second principle, he explained, is providing students with multiple ways of expressing what they know and acting on information. Instead of saying the way you are going to document your knowledge of
this chapter is to take a multiple-choice test, you can give students options: Put together a portfolio, do a diorama, create a PowerPoint or make a movie.
UDL helps not just in cases where students have a sensory disability, but
also when they have different cognitive limitations. “The idea is to build flexibility into the environment and minimize as many barriers to learning as possible, Stahl said. UDL espouses a proactive approach. Instead of saying I don’t need to make
any changes to my instructional materials because I don’t have a blind student in
my classroom, it takes the approach that
I have 25 students in class with wide variability in how they learn. I should build an environment that is as responsive as possible to all that variability. If I do that well and then have a student with a physical or sensory disability, I am all set because I have already built it into the system.”
Putting UDL Into Practice
One district that has more than 10 years of experience with UDL is Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. in Columbus, IN, 45 miles south of Indianapolis.
“We started out looking at how we could better serve students with disabilities and quickly realized that the options we were creating for those students were good for all students,” said George Van Horn, director of special education. “Now there are options available for how the information

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