Technology and Design for Inclusion: The Impact of Universal Design

Technology and Design for Inclusion: The Impact of Universal Design

Mary Lou Duffy (Florida Atlantic University, USA) and Valerie C. Bryan (Florida Atlantic University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch004


The inclusion of individuals with disabilities in concept and practice is not new to education. However, the attainment of inclusion has been a struggle in most Western countries since the 1980s. The application of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to classroom practices has the promise of making the goal of inclusion more attainable. In this chapter, the authors outline a definition of inclusion as a foundation for the need for Universal Design. Then a description of the important principles of UDL is described, with attention to the research that supports its use and application. Lastly, the authors describe the technology trends that, along with UDL principles, have the greatest impact on education in K-12 classrooms, higher education, virtual settings, and in community settings with adults and seniors.
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The Definition Of Inclusion

Defining inclusion is a complex task. Legislators and professional groups within education have worked to define the term inclusion, and while most educational professionals know what the word means; it is often the case that the concept does not have a common definition across groups (Ainscow & Miles, 2009). For very young children, the idea of inclusion includes not only the child but the family in a broad variety of age appropriate experiences in the community as well as the home and school (DEC/NAEYC, 2009). For school aged students inclusion refers to the legislated full access to the curriculum found in the general classroom (Rydak, Jackson, & Billingsley, 2000). Within the adolescent, the adult and aged populations, the term refers to the individual’s ability to participate in community activities such as employment, leisure, and independent living (Wehman, 2013). McMaster’s (2012) research on inclusion compiled various definitions of inclusion across countries and across eras. Within his work, McMasters cited Booth and Ainscow (2011) for their summary of inclusion as it relates to social justice model of thinking. Booth and Ainscow described inclusion as:

  • Supporting everyone to feel that they belong;

  • Increasing participation for children and adults in learning and teaching activities, relationships, and communities of local schools;

  • Reducing exclusion, discrimination, barriers to learning and participation;

  • Viewing differences between children and between adults as resources for learning;

  • Emphasizing the development of school communities and values, as well as achievements; and

  • Restructuring cultures, policies and practices to respond to diversity in ways that value everyone equally(p. 11).

These beliefs systems are also espoused by both adult and community educators worldwide.

The challenge that inclusion presents to schools and teachers is that inherent in the idea that all students, regardless of ability, should have access to the general curriculum. For a student with intellectual disabilities (IND) to learn the material in a grade level textbook the teacher has to redefine what “learn” means. It would be impossible to expect a student who reads on a 2nd grade level to be able to independently read and understand the material in a 7th grade textbook. However that is what inclusion of a student with IND might require. The teacher has to rethink how to handle the material so that the students can learn the most central concepts. The teacher may also have to redesign how the material is presented or how the student is evaluated, basing these decisions on the student ability level. One practice used in current pedagogy that aids the teacher in making these redesign decision is the application of Universal Design for Learning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Andragogy: Is “the art or science of helping adults learn” ( Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007 ).

Universal Design for Learning (UDL): “A research-based framework for designing curricula—that is, educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments—that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. This is accomplished by simultaneously providing rich supports for learning and reducing barriers to the curriculum, while maintaining high achievement standards for all students” (CAST, 2013, p. 1).

Virtual Reality: “Virtual reality is a computer-created sensory experience that so completely immerses the participants they can hardly distinguish this “virtual” experience from a real one” (Training, 1991 AU24: The in-text citation "Training, 1991" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. 46).

Webcasts: The dissemination of recorded or live content over the Internet ( Giannakos & Vlamos, 2012 ).

Inclusion: A philosophy based on values aiming to maximize the participation of all in society and education by minimizing exclusionary and discriminatory practices (Booth, 2005 AU23: The in-text citation "Booth, 2005" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Second Life: An open-ended virtual world where users are provided tools and guidelines to design, create and manipulate the in-world environment and interact with other users from around the world ( Wang & Burton, 2013 ).

Webconferences: Provide the opportunity for multi-process learning offering a range of interactive modes including audio, chat, text, desktop sharing, presentations, and Web conferencing ( Seddon, Postlethwaite, James & Mulryne, 2012 ).

Pedagogy: The art and science of helping children learn ( Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007 ).

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