Universal Design of the School Environment
The trend towards inclusive classrooms in mainstream schools began long ago. Universal design has become the main principle of shaping the environment in such schools.
The assertion that a person’s functional potential increases when there are no external barriers was put forward in 1970 by the architect Mike Bidner. Subsequently, his colleague Ron Mays, who had been ill with polio since childhood, developed this idea and began to implement it. He was able to make the environment safer and more convenient for everyone. This solution is called universal design. Its main idea is that everything that is designed and produced should be universal and convenient for every person. That is, try to avoid barriers already at the stage of production of something.
Of course, this idea is very useful in an inclusive learning setting. This will provide:
- physical opportunity and convenience of entering the educational institution;
- physical safety of movement and orientation in an educational institution, during training;
- the ability to obtain information about the institution and its services.
More information about the requirements for educational institutions can be found in DBN V.2.2-40: 2018 “inclusiveness of buildings and structures”, which are mandatory.
Universal design in education is a design of equipment, furniture, materials, surroundings, educational programs and services that allows their use by every applicant for education without prior adaptation.
But these are not all categories that universal design covers; this should also include the construction and design of premises, curricula, programs and methods, children’s assessments. Specific examples of universal design are given:
- teaching materials and methodologies that take into account the capabilities of different individuals;
- architecturally accessible and safe educational environment (no sharp corners, the presence of stairs and ramp, etc.)
- equipment with clear control (Ukrainian, English, German, etc. menu, the presence of icons with images, etc.)
- contrasting colors of the walls and floor;
- taking into account the influence of the learning environment on “sensory experience”;
- the use of color, light, sounds, texture;
- use of software, has instructions / reservations when a student / pupil makes the wrong choice;
- the doors are easily opened by students with different OOPs (height and shape of door handles, etc.);
- there is enough space in the toilet stall, the presence of a handrail;
- sufficient classroom space for students with adjoining space for teaching assistants;
- furniture, fittings and equipment supporting a wide range of teaching and learning methodologies;
- the ability to regulate the environment (e.g. lighting).
Our company develops equipment in cooperation with psychologists, defectologists, designers and programmers. The design of each product takes into account all the principles of building a universal design. Briolight software is also created according to the capabilities of children with different OOPs. On the interactive floor there is a Ukrainian and other languages voice accompaniment: if the answer is correct, “Well done”, “Rozumnichek”; with the wrong answer “Try again.”
A universal design concept is designed to provide every child with a quality learning experience. But pragmatic alternatives in the absence of a universal design for learning are to adapt and modify the existing educational environment and programs. But we will consider this in our other articles.