The model of Universal Education Access (UEA) was created directly from the concept of universal design (UD), an expansive approach to making buildings and environments barrier-free and accessible to individuals with a wide variety of abilities. The foundation of UD is the belief that if the environment is designed to fit all individuals, it will become usable and beneficial to everyone (Center for Universal Design).The blueprint of UEA takes UD an additional step further and strives to make education open and accessible for all. UEA provides students an instructional environment and learning climates which welcome the broadest range of students, regardless of their learning needs and is based on the premise that all aspects of environments, including information should be accessible to persons of all characteristics and abilities. Applying UEA principles not only includes and respects students with diverse backgrounds and abilities in the education process, but lays the groundwork for valuing and honoring diversity in the student’s future career.
The six principles of UEA address:
- The creation of a welcoming environment
- Success focused education
- Engaging the senses
- Use of multi-modal techniques
- Providing options for meeting expectations
- Providing an inclusive environment (Mackelprang).
UEA adheres to the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (CAST, 2008). The three key factors include utilization of multiple means of representation, expression and engagement in learning environments (CAST, 2008). For the purposes of this article, the term Universal Education Access (UEA) will be used (Mackelprang, 2006).