Bringing Universal Design to School: UD in Second Level Education

Dr Michael Hallissy and John Hurley, Fiona Byrne, Dr Gary Granville, Dr Deirdre Butler,

H2 Learning, NCAD and Castleknock Community College, NCAD, St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra


‘Universal design is the design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation by any persons of age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability’.

The workshop will be delivered in two parts:

  1. Why we need Universal Design at second level.
  2. Overview of the “Universal Design short course” for the new Junior Cycle.

CEUD is currently developing a Universal Design Short Course for the new Junior Cycle in collaboration with H2 Learning, an elearning company based in the Digital Hub, Dublin and the National College of Art and Design.  This new course provides an important vehicle to bring Universal Design to second level schools.  The workshop will provide potential stakeholders with the opportunity to see what is being developed and to input into the course design process before it goes to pilot in Spring 2016.

The “Universal Design short course” is a practical, active and organic short course. It explores the positive contributions a Universal Design approach can have in our communities, by enriching our experiences with Products and Services, The Built Environment and ICT. It is delivered in a practical engaging manner through a combination of data studies, research and analysis tasks, user trials and project design briefs. Student’s responses and practical outcomes will vary depending on the teacher delivering the course.

The core themes in the course are that students:

  • Recognise that they are part of a bigger community and that they have responsibilities in contributing to this global community.
  • Learn how to employ design thinking strategies in approaching everyday problems and in improving experiences for all.
  • Become an active citizen through better design
  • Actively engage with materials and processes in their environment to communicate their ideas in a practical manner.
  • Through design projects they create practical links in their understanding of STEM knowledge and experiences.

Students essentially learn how to look at a situation, ask the relevant explorative questions, analyse the user needs and the needs of the wider community, present a valid Universal Design solution, manufacture a prototype design and evaluate the usability of their final design. They bring an idea from concept through to basic manufacture and realisation. With a strong focus on observation, social identity and primary research, students are supported in developing their verbal skills and confidence. Students create projects which appreciate the role of design, technology, and manufacture and our social responsibility in meeting the needs of a diverse population.