Educational disadvantage or privilege through design?

April 21, 2016

Last week, the University of Cambridge held their 13th Annual Disability Lecture which Lauren Hedges, AccessHE’s Operations Manager had the pleasure of attending.  Supported by the university’s Disability Resource Centre and delivered by Dr Sue Kroeger, Director of Disability Resources at the University of Arizona, the event focused on the power of design in education and how this can lead to inclusion or exclusion.


With the concept of universal design in education a topical issue, the lecture was very timely and one which delivered a powerful message, inciting action.

Dr Kroeger encouraged practitioners to consider design as the most important factor in academic planning, with a focus on taking a creative approach to this.  She began by saying we should define and conceptualise students in all their variations when designing the student experience.  What may be considered as an adjustment for an individual could instead be thought of more broadly and a design implemented to benefit the majority.  She felt that in education we typically speak of a social model of disability and yet the processes we employ tend to be those on a medical basis.

Dr Kroeger concluded that all of us working with students, from teaching to learning support, can be agents of social change and should ensure access and inclusion aren’t viewed as a privilege but as standard practice.

The AccessHE Disability forum are currently working towards a practitioners’ conference on 13 July which will look at working collaboratively to achieve an inclusive and flexible learning environment for students.  Details on how to book your place at this conference will follow shortly.