Christy Ashby, director of the Center on Disability and Inclusion and associate professor in the School of Education at Syracuse University, spoke to Joey Pagano at the student publication The NewsHouse for “The Wheelchair Quarterback Column: Analyzing SU’s Universal Design for Learning technique.” Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is a framework for designing flexible instructional materials that allow for multiple methods of representing information, assessing student learning, and engaging and motivating students. Pagano notes that “UDL is a set of techniques aimed at facilitating success for all students, though those with disabilities are often the beneficiaries.”
As Ashby says, faculty understanding and acceptance of both UDL and traditional accessibility accommodations can vary widely, but concrete UDL policies and training can help faculty better understand how to better support students without worries of “cheating” or making work “easier.”
“Some faculty go above and beyond to ensure that they understand how the disability impacts access and how they can support the student in all aspects of the course, but some do not,” Ashby said. “Testing accommodations are by their very nature individual to the student and generally are after-the-fact accommodations to assignments and tests that have already been designed.”
“Test accommodations are not about making it easier, but making it accessible. Students still need to know the content and be able to apply it, but there are multiple ways that can happen meaningfully.
In this same column, School of Education Dean Joanna Masingila mentions that Syracuse’s Disability External Review Committee initial recommendations, which were all accepted, included Universal Design for Learning training as a part of all new faculty orientations.