The concept of universal design originated in architectural studies, where considerations of physical access for individuals with sensorimotor disabilities led to designs that incorporated assistive technologies and adaptations (curb cuts and automatic doors are two common examples of such architectural adaptations). One essential quality of universal design of physical space is that the accommodations are built in rather than added as an afterthoughtpicture the difference between a building in which the wheelchair ramp is designed as an essential part of the entrance and a building in which an added access ramp has to snake awkwardly around the steps. What makes the design "universal" is that the adaptations are not only allow access to those who have disabilities but they make it easier for everyone to use the spacethe ramp allows people to easily enter the building when using a wheelchair or when pushing a cart or a stroller, and anyone leaving a supermarket with a lot of groceries can appreciate the automatic doors.
Researchers in education have expanded the considerations of built-in adaptations and inclusive accommodations from architectural space to the educational experience, first in terms of designing physical and sensory means of access to the curriculum for children with disabilities (for instance, screen readers and preprogrammed "hot" or "sticky" keys); more recently this research has moved into considering cognitive disabilities and curriculum design. As mentioned above, two groups that have been instrumental in applying the concept of universal design to cognitive issues are CAST, the Center for Applied Special Technology, and the National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators (NCITE) at the University of Oregon.
A Definition of Universal Design for Learning
In terms of learning, universal design means the design of instructional materials and activities that allows the learning goals to be... [continues]
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