By Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS
By law, all buildings must be accessible to people with disabilities. Accessible design refers to ways in which architects design homes and businesses to be more available to everyone. Thresholds are gone in buildings and ramps have sprung up so wheelchairs can pass easily. ADA Standards for Accessible Design, adopted in 2010, required compliance for new construction and building alterations. We take these things for granted now, and are surprised when we go into a building that is not retrofitted to comply. I was in my dentist’s office the other day and noticed there is no way for a wheelchair to get up the front steps. A patient could make an issue of this and the dentist would have to provide a ramp.
Our classrooms, however, need more attention than the basics. There are ways to improve your room for children who are hearing and visually impaired, for example. UDL, or Universal Design for Learning, is a movement to design all classrooms for accessibility. It expands the concept beyond architectural changes to encompass curriculum enhancements that make learning more available to all.
Schools are also beginning to notice that it doesn’t take a complete redesign of your school to install some inexpensive devices and software that bring you closer to Universal Design. In older school buildings, there are classrooms where children cannot hear the teacher, or her voice is either muffled or distorted by echo. Inexpensive audio systems can be installed to improve listening for everyone. Strategically placed speakers and transmitters will fill corners with clear, decipherable sound.
It’s estimated that up to 20% of all school children have some hearing loss. There are many reasons for this; the most common is an infection, or Otitis Media. Repeated infections can cause permanent conductive hearing loss. However, it’s not just hearing loss that is at fault. It’s also classroom acoustics. We know many classrooms that can be greatly improved with a little intervention.
Likewise, children come to us with untreated visual deficits. Sometimes vision therapies to correct a lazy eye will be enough to bring children to visual acuity. Our desktop and tablet computers have settings that will increase the size of fonts for easier reading, read our written material out loud and increase the brightness on the screen.
You can modify settings yourself:
Documents in Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word can be read out loud.
So, if your district is slow to adopt some of the newer technologies, there are many things you can do to make your classroom more accessible for your students.
- Practical UDL Ideas
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Grant Name: USGA Alliance Grants
Funded By: National Alliance for Accessible Golf
Description: Grants support organizations which provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn and enjoy the game of golf and its inherent values. The Alliance and the USGA share the belief that the game of golf is exceptionally well-suited to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in a recreational or competitive activity with participants who have various types of disabilities as well as those who do not have disabilities. We encourage inclusive programming - opportunities that allow participants with disabilities and participants without disabilities to learn and play the game side by side.
Program Areas: Disabilities, Health/PE
Eligibility: Public School, Other
Proposal Deadline: Ongoing
Average Amount: $1,000.00 - $20,000.00
Address: 1733 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Availability: All States