Harvard University professor proposes universal education design
Europe, June 2 2012
Exploring the idea of universal design within the education system, a guest lecturer took the stage at Keyano College, this month.
Dr. Richard Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed., a Harvard University professor, visited the Oilsands City to discuss the importance of integration for students with learning disabilities.
Diagnosed with extreme A.D.D., Lavoie has an intimate understanding of the roadblocks that students with learning disabilities can face, openly admitting that he has no concept of time.
“I have no idea how far I am into this presentation I am,” he said to the crowd of teachers, educational assistants and community members.
The idea of universal design began with architects tasked with making public ways accessible to all people, no matter their physical ability.
“Build the public way to make it accessible to all people with disabilities,” he said, explaining that laws are now in place to aid people with disabilities.
Elevators are now equipped with lights to indicate which doors will open first, just as TV channels provide closed captioned programming and public spaces have automatically opening and closing doors.
The barrier-free design concept even carries over to streets and sidewalks that have curb cuts, 30 degree angled sidewalk lips that allow wheelchairs and people with limited mobility easier access to sidewalks.
Universal design, Lavoie explained, means spaces and places that are accessible to people with even the most severe physical restrictions are automatically accessible to people with full mobility. Additionally, people with rolling suitcases can use curb cuts, just as people with an armload of boxes can benefit from automatic doors.
“All these adjustments that were made for people with physical disabilities, we’re realizing are just good ideas,” he said.
This, he says, is the basis for how education should be approached. Classes and lessons that are designed to be effective with disabled students will be all the more effective for fully-capable students.
Universal design in education means planning class schedules and programs to include provisions for learning disabled children who may need more time or extra assistance, just as buildings are planned with ramps and elevators.
“Teaching to make it effective for the student that can’t learn, imagine how effective it’ll be for those that can learn,” proclaimed Lavoie, adding, “it’s just a good idea.”
For more information on Lavoie’s teachings and philosophies, visit ricklavoie.com.