ALTITUDE – The National Charter for Universal Design in Tertiary Education

Creator(s)

Organisation(s)

AHEAD

Discipline(s)

Topic(s)

Accessibility & Inclusion, Accessibility and Inclusion, T&L Practice

License

CC BY-NC

Media Format

PDF

Keywords

UDLuniversal design

Submitted by

Description

The learner population in tertiary education is becoming increasingly diverse, and students’ lives are also increasingly complex. The responsibility on educational institutions to provide equitable access for all is now strongly embedded in Irish legislation, and national tertiary education strategies contain more specific goals to implement a Universal Design approach, (SOLAS, 2020; Higher Education Authority, 2022).

The aim is to move towards a system where ‘Inclusion is Everyone’s Business’, where all staff play their part in delivering an inclusive educational experience.

Universal Design, or UD for short, offers us an evidence-based approach to engender this mindset, and is increasingly seen as a central tenet of our response to rising diversity, (Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, 2022). But how can we embed a UD approach in our institutions?

That’s where ALTITUDE – the National Charter for Universal Design in Tertiary Education – comes in to play.

Funded by the HEA under PATH 4, the ALTITUDE Project is an extensive cross sectoral collaboration involving six national agencies, fifteen higher education (HE) institutions and six Education and Training Board (ETB) representatives, nominated by Directors of FET to represent the Further Education and Training sector.

The vision of the project looks to a future in tertiary education where ‘all learners are transformatively included through universal design in education’, deriving the name ALTITUDE. It seeks to move us in that direction by supporting HEIs and ETBs to make sustainable progress towards systemically embedding a UD approach…. – one which places human diversity at the heart of tertiary education design, and fosters student success for all learners.

The ALTITUDE Charter, and the associated toolkit and technical report, build on significant existing work on UD in the Irish tertiary education landscape (Kelly & Padden, 2018), and through these outputs, provides a clear roadmap for institutions to make progress.

Drawing from national and international literature, the Charter recommends key strategic enablers, which institutions should put in place over time to support the sustainable implementation of UD, and proposes collaborative action to work towards goals under 4 key pillars of our institutions:

– Learning, Teaching & Assessment;
– Supports, Services & Social Engagement;
– the Physical Environment;
– and the Digital Environment

Benefit of this resource and how to make the best use of it

Institutions who adopt it will over time benefit from:

  • a more unified language of and commitment to a universal design approach in their institution
  • a greater culture of shared responsibility for UD, access, and inclusion, operationalising the ‘Inclusion is Everyone’s Business’ mindset.
  • a more effective and learner centred approach to compliance with national legislation and policy
  • and most importantly, the iterative development of programmes, services, and environments that enable equitable opportunities for – all learners to thrive and be successful.

The cross-sectoral development of the ALTITUDE Charter represents a landmark moment for the tertiary education sector, signalling its intent to place human diversity at the heart of its design and delivery.

Related OER

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For this year’s teaching and learning Horizon Report, expert panelists’ discussions highlighted and wrestled with these present and looming challenges for higher education. This report summarizes the results of those discussions and serves as one vantage point on where our future may be headed.

The Transition Makers Toolbox is a collaborative initiative of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS) at the University of Amsterdam and the alliance of Technical University Eindhoven, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and University Medical Centre Utrecht (EWUU), supported by the Teaching & Learning Centre of the University of Amsterdam and Liberal Arts and Sciences and University College Utrecht at Utrecht University. Together with teachers from 9 higher education institutions across the Netherlands, we have developed these tools to empower your students to contribute to tackling complex societal challenges.

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