Working Group Discussion Summaries

Participants sit around a table talking.

Discussion points made during group collaboration are presented below.

List specific examples of applications of universal design that could be integrated into engineering courses.

  • Include instruction on accessible design in engineering lab courses and ask a wide variety of people for input on lab design.
  • Create videos that define engineering and show how universal design can be incorporated into engineering projects and programs.
  • Add multiple modes of assessment to courses, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic options. Allow assessments to be more open ended and without time limits.
  • Develop an accessibility/universal design rating system for courses.
  • Create guidelines or standards for courses that include universal design.
  • Help students develop empathy for disability by inviting a panel of people with a variety of abilities to discuss their experiences and include people with disabilities in project testing.
  • Have more student-led discussion and interactive methods for learning and assessment instead of just sit-down learning.
  • Create opportunities for students to meet the user and work with them to create a project—include people with disabilities in these scenarios.
  • Cite examples of where universal design works better than products without universal design.
  • Create websites and curriculum that are accessible and usable by everyone.
  • Develop strategies to support students based on individual needs.
  • Include a variety of accessible equipment in engineering labs, including auto-open trash cans, doors, and faucets; kitchen tools; digital and print materials; and other tools based on individual needs.
  • Incorporate scaffolding for notes and projects and include ideas for how to move forward with projects.
  • Let students speak for themselves and their own abilities—don’t make assumptions or just listen to disability services.
  • Have students discuss about real world examples of technology and who is being included and excluded in multiple examples.

How can you encourage instructors on your campus to consider integrating accessibility/universal design into their courses?

  • Get company buy in to demonstrate to instructors that the need is out there for accessible products.
  • Give a faculty member a promotion to head an access board or lead an accessible engineering program.
  • Create quick and easy tutorials on accessibility, accessible documents, and captions for staff and faculty to review.
  • Allow faculty to have a “mini sabbatical,” where they can spend time revamping their syllabus and including universal design.
  • Offer paid seminars and workshops on universal design for faculty to attend.
  • Have the IT department do website reviews and address issues with faculty.
  • Incorporate accessibility into instructors’ annual review.
  • Have faculty peer review each other’s material with a focus on accessibility.
  • Discuss personal connections to disability and commonalities with disability.
  • Create a rewards program for those who can meet criteria created around universal design.
  • Create a center for accessibility that can be used as a resource on campus.
  • Create resources about universal design and accessible documents that can be used freely by all instructors and accessed online from the school website.
  • Share case studies and promising practices from the DO-IT website with instructors.
  • Leverage existing infrastructure and disability services to provide support for UD.
  • Get Ivy League institutions on board with universal design and accessibility to encourage smaller institutions to follow suit.
  • Require all professors to discuss current research and industry applications, and encourage professors and students to both bring up the topic of universal design and incorporate it into engineering curriculum.
  • Create more incentive for diversity in engineering departments.
  • Implement EPICS on more campuses.
  • Encourage accessibility and UD as a standards level from the National Academy of Engineering, ABET, and the National Science Foundation.

How could engineering labs and makerspaces on your campus be made more accessible?

  • Get adjustable equipment racks and tables, as well as other universally designed equipment that allows for more people to participate.
  • Try to use updated infrastructure for engineering labs and makerspaces so all students can access the rooms.
  • In research labs, encourage a buddy system where experiments are done in pairs or groups, where people with disabilities fill a role suited to their strengths.
  • Include education on disabilities, accessibility, and inclusivity in classes and lab spaces.
  • Collaborate with other stakeholders across campus. Bring administration into the discussion so they can see who is being affected and why money for universally designed space and equipment is important.
  • Put tags on equipment and have permanent homes for them so people with visual impairments can find these items easier.
  • Add velcro or other textures on buttons for tools so there is tactile feedback.
  • Make sure all manuals and equipment is well organized.
  • Recruit and include students and faculty with disabilities in the design process.
  • Have workshops that can be inclusive by holding them in accessible spaces and having a variety of ways to participate.
  • Provide a map to students of a lab space, so they know where tools are right away. Allow for an accessible digital version of this map.

How do the viewpoints of the individuals in the documentary Fixed affect how you would teach about topics related to disability and universal design in the engineering curriculum?

  • People with disabilities—even people with the same disability—have a broad spectrum of opinions about their disability, and one person should not be considered a spokesman for everyone.
  • We need to change the view from “fixing people” to “fixing the environment” and look at how engineering can work to make an environment accessible to the greater group.
  • The social justice perspective of disability has a place in the discussion. Engineering often relies on the medical model of disability as something to be fixed—not everyone wants to be fixed but instead may want different types of tools. We should redefine what is normal and what is expected.
  • We will add information about diversity as an aid to the human perspective.
  • I plan to craft an engineering ethics class that involves this documentary.
  • Fixed mainly talked about visible disabilities—I would be interested in seeing this perspective on people with invisible disabilities as well and how our classes can bring invisible disabilities into engineering curriculum.
  • This documentary reinforces the idea that users are not homogeneous and all users should be treated as individuals.