There are several concepts and laws that involve creating accessible learning environments. The two of the most relevant of these: the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and Universal Instructional Design (UID).
It is important to be aware of the AODA, as it requires organizations to meet certain accessibility standards. The information contained within the best practices and tutorials will help you meet those standards.
Universal Instructional Design is an educational concept which is becoming more and more prevalent. While Queen's University has no policy requiring its employees to meet the standards of Universal Instructional Design, it is helpful nonetheless to be aware of the principles of UID. Combining seven principles, Universal Instructional Design can be applied when teaching those students who have disabilities. Applying this concept assures that everyone is given the same opportunities to maximize their learning experience.
The seven principles of universal design are:
- Equitable Use
- Flexibility in Use
- Simple and Intuitive
- Perceptible Information
- Tolerance for Error
- Low Physical Effort
- Size and Space for Approach and Use
When preparing lessons and material, instructors can consider the principles of universal design to make sure they are addressing the needs of all their students - those with disabilities and those of varying backgrounds can benefit from an altered educational plan. With this in mind, how can an educator apply principles of Universal Instructional Design to the classroom? Here are some examples.
- Delivery Methods: The instructor can utilize a variety of delivery methods to address the learning styles of all the students in a classroom. Some examples of different instructional methods include: lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, projects, cases and internet-based interaction.
- Learning Materials: See the Accessibility Hub's Tutorials on how to make learning material accessible for students. Make material available in both print and electronic formats. Provide outlines for sessions to give students time to prepare accordingly.
- Demonstration of Knowledge: Give students frequent and flexible opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge in ways other than written tests and papers. Consider using group work, demonstrations, presentations and portfolios to gage student understanding.
- Physical Effort and Access: There are many resources within the for Faculty/Staff section for information to make the learning environment one that is physically accessible. Make sure that activities minimize the need for extensive physical effort and accommodate the physical skills of all students. Reduce the need for unnecessary physical travel by making material accessible and available to be submitted electronically.