UNH’s Institute On
Disability Working To Make Higher Education Accessible For All
Contact: Erika Mantz
UNH Media Relations
Nov. 15, 2004
DURHAM, N.H. – Thanks to a federal grant from the Department
of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education and The Institute
on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, access to higher
education in New England is improving for people with disabilities.
“Traditionally, the focus on access to education has been
in K-12,” says project coordinator Kirsten Behling. “Often
people with disabilities leave the formal education system after
high school, but we’re finding an increasing number going
to college, especially the community and technical colleges.”
The project has two main goals: provide professional development
strategies for faculty members so they have the tools they need
to make their classroom and course content more accessible, and
promote a universal design for learning.
“Universal design means you follow a strategy similar to that
used in architecture,” Behling explains. “If you have
an old building, you have to modify to find ways to make it accessible,
but when you build from the ground up, those accommodations are
part of the original design. We want to see the same thing happen
in course development.”
Behling also notes that these accommodations do not only benefit
people with disabilities.
“Ramps and curb cuts are also great for parents with strollers
and runners, and even though closed captioning was originally created
for people with hearing impairments research shows the number one
use of it is by married couples when one wants to sleep while the
other watches television,” she said. “In the same way,
no two students learn alike. If we build these strategies into course
development, the theory is that it will not only help a person with
disabilities, but other students with different learning styles
who may not learn very well listening to a one-hour lecture.”
The project is working with faculty at the New Hampshire Technical
Institute in Concord; the New Hampshire Technical Colleges in Manchester,
Stratham and Berlin; Plymouth State University; University of Southern
Maine; University of Massachusetts at Boston, Fitchburg State College
and Quinsigamond Community College.
Strategies and technology currently in use include the development
of a Universally Course Designed syllabus, which is a template for
faculty to sue to design a universal course, the use of different
technologies throughout the course (video, digital photography,
audio lessons and distance learning) and versatile instructional
strategies (guest speakers, alternative assessment options for all
students, internships, group work.
Equity and Excellence is a project of The Institute on Disability
in collaboration with The Institute for Community Inclusion at the
University of Massachusetts in Boston and is funded completely by
an $813,358 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office
of Postsecondary Education. The project is in the fifth of six years.
The Institute on Disability/UCED advances policies and systems changes,
promising practices, education and research that strengthen communities
and ensure full access, equal opportunities, and participation for
all persons. For more information, visit www.iod.unh.edu.