Building in access with the Universal Design and Access Committee
The Universal Design and Access Committee works to enhance university accessibility according to the principles of Universal Design in areas such as curriculum, built environment, technology and information, campus events, and workplace inclusivity.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion • July 21, 2021
July 26, 2021, is the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in areas of public life, including schools. Over the past several years, many ADA improvements have been made on the University of Utah campus, still, there is work to do, and the Universal Design and Access committee (UDAC) is leading the charge.
The Universal Design and Access Committee advises the One U Thriving Steering Committee on policies and procedures affecting campus community members and visitors, including, but not restricted to, persons with disabilities relative to employment, educational opportunities, and accessibility. Co-chairs Scott McAward (he/him) and Anglea Smith (she/her) lead a proactive committee with a range of university entities to enhance university accessibility according to the principles of Universal Design in areas such as curricular design, built environment, technology and information, campus events, and workplace inclusivity.
I’m Angela Smith (she/her). I’m the director of Disability Studies at the University of Utah, and I’m the co-chair of a university committee called the Universal Design and Access Committee. The committee is also led by Scott McAward, who is the director of the Center for Disability and Access at the U.
The Universal Design and Access Committee is, as the name suggests, very invested in the principles of Universal Design. Universal Design begins with the understanding that people are diverse — that we all come to situations with certain needs and that our world has typically been designed and built for a quite narrow range of bodies and minds and capabilities, excluding everyone else. So, to help transform that world, we can use universal design principles to proactively anticipate and build in access for as many kinds of people and needs as possible.
Our committee gathers together people from all over campus, all of whom are in a position to carry out change and to make the university experience more accessible.
We have people involved in the planning and building and maintenance of university facilities. We have folks in Information Technology and Teaching and Learning Technologies. We have representatives from our Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and the Center for Disability and Access, and folks from Human Resources and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We also have faculty who are committed to making learning on our campus more accessible.
We have representation from main campus and Health Sciences and the School of Medicine, so we really view this as a campus-wide effort to reimagine the university as a genuinely accessible space.
One of our current initiatives is the creation of an accessibility website. When you come to the U, whether in-person or online, whether you’re visiting or arriving as a new student, or starting work here, it can be hard to know where to go or who to talk to to find the supports you might need or to work on fixing a barrier to access. So we imagine this new site as a one-stop-shop for information about access and links to disability and access resources.
We’re also planning to make it easy for people with access needs that aren’t being met to communicate with people who can do something about it. We feel that the experiences and expertise of U of U community members with disabilities need to be the primary force in shaping our initiatives and the changes that we create.
Our university slogan is “you belong here,” so I really feel like we’re embarking on the work needed to make sure that that is true for everyone.
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