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physical, perceptual, and cognitive

abilities, as well as different body

sizes and shapes. This allows for

the creation of physical spaces,

software, apps, and products that are

more functional and user-friendly

to everyone. Even the most basic of

these innovations have gone further

than just benefitting those who are

disabled. The website points to the

example of curb cuts, which along

with ramps, were originally designed

to be wheelchair accessible, but have

been found to be of great advantage

to anyone using rolling luggage, carts,

or strollers. These design features are

easily overlooked, but prove profitable

to us all.

IU Southeast has installed curb cuts,

and has already adapted buildings

with elevators, automatic doors,

wheelchair ramps, and accessible

restrooms. Sign-language and

closed-captioning are provided for the

hearing impaired. Braille computers

are available for the visually

impaired. Beyond the obvious design

features around campus, students

and faculty may not even realize

the depth of their daily interaction

with Universally Designed aspects

of their learning environment. For

example, IU Southeast has taken

advantage of modern technology

with the installation of a campus alert

system. This system provides instant

updates and information on campus

conditions through text or voice alerts

via cell phone. This goes relatively

unnoticed, but has proven to be a

valuable tool in an era when nearly all

have a cell phone at their fingertips.

Another innovation that has become

increasingly more common is the

ability to take courses online. Online

classes have quickly grown in

popularity, with nearly one-third of

enrollment falling into the category

of non-traditional students. Online

courses provide alternative scheduling

benefits to those who are physically

disabled, those who work full-time

jobs, and those who are raising

families. This has pushed online

learning to become a substantial part

of the curriculum within the Indiana

University system. “The beauty of

taking an online class is that, by virtue

of being online, it satisfies your need

for accessibility. You don’t need to

go to an office like mine and ask for

a modification,” Springer explains.

Just recently, the availability of online

learning has expanded to high schools

as it has become an alternative to

students being forced to make up days

missed due to inclement weather.

Universal Design provides an

ever-expanding pool of resources

to become even more inclusive.

There already exists a wide variety

of software and literally thousands

of apps designed to implement

Universal Design in the classroom.

While these concepts represent a

wealth of learning tools, they are only

the beginning.

Springer points out just one of the

constant roadblocks that must be

overcome: “When we run studies

and look at things, there are always

things that can be improved. There

are projects on the books, but it’s just

a matter of getting the funding to do

them. Funding sources come from

the state, and getting that money

is always a challenge.” When it

comes to getting Universal Design

going, Springer explains, “As far as

initiatives, we’re really hitting hard

with faculty. The Universal Design

curricula, the Universal Design

classroom, the academic side. What

does a Universal Design syllabus

look like – what does an assignment

look like? That has been rolled out

by myself and ILTE (Institute for

Learning and Teaching Excellence)

pretty hard. That started this past fall


“What is a disability other than a

disconnect between an individual

and an environment? If you remove

that disconnect, which Universal

Design does, then there’s no need

for accommodation for a disability,”

Springer explains. “The day the

university no longer needs me,

when there’s no need for a special

accommodation, is going to be a great


IU Southeast and the Indiana

University system is following the

lead set by individuals such as Ron

Mace and his team at North Carolina

State University in accommodating

every student possible, blurring the

lines of diversity, and bringing the

future of Universal Design into the

classroom of today.