Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility
Colorado State University strives to be a “welcoming, accessible and inclusive” campus. Its broad definition of diversity includes individuals with disabilities, for whom full inclusion in the academic life of the institution requires unimpeded access to the physical environment and to electronic and information technology, which is the lifeblood of academia.
Removing Barriers to Equal Access
Achieving equal access for people with disabilities and diverse learning needs usually involves eliminating barriers present in environment. For someone using a wheelchair, the barrier may be a step at the entrance to a building or a sidewalk without a curb cut. For students who cannot hear, the obstacle may be an uncaptioned video. And for people with visual impairments, who rely on text-to-speech software to read text aloud, the barrier can be a simple paper syllabus.
Colleges and universities are required by law to make their facilities and programs accessible to qualified students with disabilities. They achieve this by providing “reasonable accommodations,” which are typically coordinated by an office of disability services (DS). Accommodations may include sign language interpreting, note taking, conversion of textbooks to digital formats, and video captioning. Solutions of this type may be considered reactive because they occur after the individual with a disability has registered with the DS office and requested an accommodation.
Disability accommodations are an essential part of guaranteeing equal access on college campuses. But what if environmental barriers could be avoided in the first place? What if there were a proactive approach to making campuses and learning materials accessible to all members of the academic community?
In fact, such an approach exists, and it’s called Universal Design (UD). UD describes the philosophy of designing with the needs of a diverse group of users in mind. It is employed by architects, engineers, web designers and course developers to create barrier-free environments that are accessible to everyone.
These UD tutorials
The tutorials on this site have been designed to illustrate several essential UD concepts, along with a variety of techniques for building course materials and other documents that contain the minimum number of barriers to users. By creating “universally designed” documents that anticipate the needs of a diverse audience—including individuals who employ a range technologies—you will be doing your part to create a learning environment that puts everyone on an equal footing.