22. UDL-From disabilities office to mainstream class: How the tools of a minority are addressing the aspirations of the student body at large
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Confronted by the increasingly changing and varied nature of disabilities in Higher Education (Bowe, 2000; McGuire & Scott, 2002), Disability Service providers across North America are progressively moving away from targeted remedial assistance focusing on the disabilities of students, to a less frontline role involving the sensitization of faculty around strategies that seek to widen access and develop awareness (Sopko, 2008). Universal Design is hence often the model of choice (Rose, Harbour, Johnston, Daley & Abarbanell, 2006). It incorporates extensive use of technology and seeks the implementation of winning conditions in the classroom space that reduce or eliminate the need for later remedial work with students (Burgstahler, 2006). The hypothesis of this paper is that Universal Design, though conceived as a tool for a specific clientele, may quickly transpire to be the model best suited to serve the needs of the student body at large. The paper attempts to demonstrate how the core values underlying the Universal Design approach in fact meet wider educational aspirations of the 21st century. Not only do its strategies and goals allow wider access to students with Disabilities, but they allow the integration of the ‘millennium learners’, encourage higher student retention, guarantee higher rates of graduation and establish greater equity and respect for diversity. A model, designed to assist the minority, is quickly becoming a tool that has the capacity to open the class and the lecture hall to the diversity of the emerging and metamorphosing High Education learner, even if his/ her idiosyncrasies are still barely known (Howard, 2004).
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