The 2016 Human Development Report asserts that democratizing education is one of the key universal policies needed for global progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs) (UNDP, 2016). SDG4 specifically calls for “free, equitable and quality” education, and indicator 4.A.1 assesses access to: “(d) adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities” (UN, 2015). We propose that rather than access being an indicator of progress for a special population, the development of accessible materials is essential for the sustainable open education needed for global human progress. This presentation will explore two primary areas of research to demonstrate the benefits of accessible materials: (a) early childhood education and (b) higher education.
This presentation and our research addresses the theme of sustainable open education communities by investigating the opportunities for multi-dimensional sustainability through accessible educational resources. We define sustainability as tripartite goals of social equity, economic well-being, and environmental quality. Sustainable open education should serve all of these goals through advancing equitable outcomes among all people, promote human development, and promote the wise and efficacious use of all resources. By making open education accessible, all three goals of sustainability are addressed. One paradigm of accessibility, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), provides design specifications for educational resources and targets equality in engagement, representation, and action and expression to all students (CAST, 2018). When UDL is used in open educational resources, it disrupts the hegemony of educational practices by providing for broad and adaptive usage of content by any learner or instructor. Further, by combining the goals of open education with those of accessibility, sustainability is advanced through the efficient use and reuse of such content and approaches. While the relationship of universal design broadly has been explored in relation to sustainability (Vavik and Keitsch 2010), there is limited discussion on the role of UDL in sustainability.
This reflective presentation explores the benefits for sustainability through development of accessible open education, and to what extent have programs improving accessibility have realized sustainability benefits. In the presentation, we have four objectives: (1) Evaluate definitions and linkages of sustainability and accessibility; (2) Explore opportunities for sustainability through promotion of accessibility, especially in open educational communities and resources; (3) Share examples from early childhood education (Somerville & William, 2015) and higher education; and (4) Engage with the audience about opportunities for bridging sustainability and accessibility in their educational domains.
CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. http://udlguidelines.cast.org
Somerville, M., & Williams, C. (2015). Sustainability education in early childhood: An updated
review of research in the field. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 16(2), 102–117.
UN, 2015. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New York, NY: United Nations. A/RES/70/1 .
UNDP, 2016. Human Development Report 2016: Human Development for Everyone.New York, NY.
Vavik, T., & Keitsch, M. M. (2010). Exploring relationships between universal design and social sustainable development: some methodological aspects to the debate on the sciences of sustainability. Sustainable Development, 18(5), 295-305.