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Universal Design in Engineering Education

The Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA)
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  • Communication
  • Design
  • Engineering
  • Law


PLACE TITLE HERE USING ALL UPPER CASE UNIVERSAL DESIGN OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION Variawa, C; McCahan, S. Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, Ontario Canada [email protected]; [email protected] INTRODUCTION An accessible learning environment, ideally, is an environment in which every student has equal access and is assessed on an equal basis. Given the diversity of the student population this ideal may never be fully achieved. However, recognizing that the accessibility of learning, from the student perspective, is a function of many factors including cultural factors, learning styles, and learning disabilities, can aid us in developing learning environments that are more accessible to a broader range of students. The design of accessible environments has roots in Universal Design (UD), a concept largely developed in architecture by Ron Mace for the design of public spaces to be accessible for the broadest range of users to the greatest degree possible1,2. The underlying concept in UD is to incorporate accessibility into the design process from the start, rather than a posteriori. The goal of this approach is to increase the usability and potentially the functionality of a design for a diverse population. In addition to promoting usability, it has the potential to increase inclusivity for a greater number of users as well. UD in engineering is now generally widespread: ramps originally intended for wheelchair users are also usable by strollers and delivery-people, and text- messaging on cellphones assist both the hearing-impaired and those who want a silent conversation, and so forth. Additionally, the importance of this approach has played a role in the development of legislation (Americans with Disabilities Act3, Telecommunications Act4) to mandate increased accessibility for a greater number of users. The principles of universal design advocate flex

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