Universal Design & Online Accessibility


Larry King Live
Universal Design and Accessibility with Guest Expert: Dr. Jane Smith Larry King: A very good evening, everybody.
Welcome to Larry King Live. This evening we have a very special guest, Dr. Jane Smith.
Dr. Smith has a doctorate in Education and is an accessibility advocate and expert. She
chairs several accessibility-related advisory groups. Welcome, Dr. Smith. Jane Smith: Thank you, Larry. It’s a pleasure
to be here. Larry King: You have been very active in pushing
for implementing Universal Design elements in Education. What is Universal Design? Jane Smith: Well, Larry, the term “Universal
Design” is a concept that has emerged from the architectural field and is now being applied
in other arenas such as instruction. Universal design is “the design of products
and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the
need for adaptation or specialized design.” Larry King: So how is this concept applied
in education? Jane Smith: Applied to education, and I quote
one of the pioneers of this effort, Frank Bowe, who, In his book, Universal Design in
Education, defines universal design as “the preparation of curriculum, materials and environments
so that they may be used appropriately and with ease, by a wide variety of people.”
Many educators have embraced the concept of universal design because its application enhances
instruction for all students. It changes the emphasis from “special features for a few”
to “good design for many.” Larry King: I am seeing a growing number of
lawsuits from disability groups against universities. What kind of laws are in place? Jane Smith: Section 508 standards define the
minimum level of web accessibility for websites developed or used by the federal government.
Although in many instances the 508 standards and the WAI guidelines are identical or very
similar, in general, World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
standards represent a higher level of accessibility. Regardless of which standards institutions
use, they still must meet any obligations they have under the Americans with Disabilities
Act and other legislation to provide access to specific individuals with disabilities
who wish to access their website. The Access Board standards cover the broad
spectrum of electronic and information technology, including but not limited to web content. Larry King: Who benefits from Universal Design
in Learning? Jane Smith: Well, Larry, the short answer
is everyone! That’s why it is called “universal” design. For example, while closed captioning
of videos is needed for the deaf, but others who benefit are English as a Second Language
(ESL) students, students with learning styles that respond better to text information, students
with moderate hearing impairment. It also helps students watch and understand foreign
language films. Accessibility is the right thing to do.
Accessibility is the smart thing to do. And accessibility is the legal thing to do. Larry King: That’s certainly true. Thank
you so much for your time with us. Jane Smith: Thank you, Larry. It’s been
great being here.

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