Joanna Masingila, dean and professor, and Christy Ashby, associate professor, spoke to The NewHouse’s Wheelchair Quarterback Joey Pagano for “Analyzing SU’s Universal Design for Learning technique.” Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is a framework for designing flexible instructional materials that allow for multiple methods of representing information, assessing student learning, and engaging and motivating students.
Masingila, the co-chair of the Syracuse University Disability External Review Committee, notes that the committee’s first round of recommendations included UDL training for all new faculty, but that more work is still needed. Future recommendation phases will include more on UDL, with the goal of “having all faculty be knowledgeable about UDL and preparing them to teach around that framing.”
Ashby discussed how designing for the inclusion of students with disabilities can benefit everyone’s learning. But some faculty are still skeptical and view UDL as allowing students to cheat or making their classes “easier.” However, UDL is a way to build the potential need for accessibility accommodation directly into class materials.
“Test accommodations are not about making it easier, but making it accessible. Students still need to know the content and be able to apply it, but there are multiple ways that can happen meaningfully,” Ashby said. “I would argue that some of the resistance to accommodations reflects the ableism that’s so pervasive in society and on college campuses.”
Ashby also appeared on the latest episode of the Jabbedu podcast, entitled “Creating an Equitable Path for Students with Disabilities.” In it, she discusses her path from getting started in inclusive education, her early years at Syracuse University (where she also received her Ph.D.), and her recent appointment as director of the Center on Disability and Inclusion. Ashby talks about the Center’s current and future work, and her new book, Enacting Change from Within, co-authored with Meghan Cosier.