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FASPAS Widens Universal Design Concepts at WIU

January 16, 2014

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MACOMB, IL - Faculty and Staff Partnerships for Accessible Solutions (FASPAS) is a four-session workshop designed to embed Universal Design (UD) into the learning, physical and procedural environments at Western Illinois University.

UD, also known as human-centered design, is a process rooted in architecture that can be applied to all aspects of higher education to create inclusive, equitable and sustainable environments that welcome a diverse population. The seven principles of UD are equitable use, flexibility, simple and intuitive design, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort and size and space for approach.

Participants in FASPAS agree to implement at least one UD strategy into the work they do and share what they learn with others. Facilitators provide ongoing support and opportunities to learn and discuss experiences.

The idea for FASPAS at WIU came about after Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration faculty member Rachel Smith and Disability Resource Center Director Tara Buchannan, participated in a three-year program called Project ShIFT (Shaping Inclusion Through Foundational Transformation). The purpose of Project ShIFT was to equip disability resource professionals and faculty with the tools to transform disability office operations and the instructional environment utilizing UD principles.

"Universal Design is important because it offers us an opportunity to plan ahead to welcome a diverse population," said Buchannan. "UD improves the experience for everyone, whether you are a first generation college student, an international student, a student with a disability or a potential employee."

Smith and Buchannan initially partnered with Equal Opportunity and Access Director Andrea Henderson, Jeremy Merritt, of University Technology and Dawn Sweet, of the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) to develop the program. Since then, Julie Lawless, a FASPAS graduate, has joined the group as a facilitator. Lawless, an assistant professor in the WIU Department of Geography, has a doctorate degree in architecture and a professional background in community planning and UD.

"At it's heart, Universal Design is just good design," Smith said. "It is a method by which we can embrace diversity by including people, all people regardless of their functional ability, language preference or socio-economic background."

Smith has a background as an educator and as an advocate in the many facets of disability and is currently an associate faculty member and internship coordinator for the WIU Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration. Buchannan has 13 years of professional experience in working with students with disabilities in higher education.

So far, 20 WIU faculty and staff have completed the program. Past participants include:
• Joanna Graham, Health Sciences faculty
• Andrew J. Baker, Agriculture faculty
• Miriam N. Satern, Kinesiology faculty
• Mary M. Jensen, Curriculum and Instruction faculty
• Darlos K. Mummert, Curriculum and Instruction faculty
• John L. Timmons, Dietetics, Fashion Merchandising and Hospitality faculty
• Jill J. Myers, Law Enforcement and Justice Administration faculty
• Jennifer McNabb, History faculty
• Julie Williams Lawless, Geography faculty
• Sharon R. Stevens, Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies faculty
• Bart Gill, Agriculture faculty
• Lorette Oden, Health Sciences chairperson
• Alisha White, English and Journalism faculty
• Sarah Schoper, Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies faculty
• Katrina Daytner, Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies faculty
• Angela Knight, Health Sciences faculty
• Nancy Parsons, associate provost and vice president of Academic Affairs
• Scott Coker, director of Facilities Management
• Michael Hott, Facilities Management architectural superintendent
• Carina Kapraun, Facilities Management construction project manager

"FASPAS made me aware of the different Universal Design practices that I can easily implement into my classroom," said Joanna Graham. "I enjoyed learning about Universal Design and all the simple ways we can make a big difference in our classrooms. FASPAS provided me the opportunity to learn about easy-to-do techniques that will make my classroom a friendlier environment for all students. I learned something new and interesting at every session of FASPAS. It was definitely worth my time."

All past participants will be recognized this year at the President's Diversity Awards Reception for their completion of this program.

"The FASPAS program really began as an initiative to break down barriers to participation in the classroom for students with disabilities," said Smith. "We quickly realized the implications were much larger. The campus is the classroom. All of us, educators, administrators, secretaries, building service workers, have an impact on our environment for our co-workers and for the students that WIU serves. We are responsible for creating environments that attract and retain quality students and personnel. UD works. It is a method that considers the usage by people of all ages, sizes and abilities. We are seeing the positive results in various academic departments across campus. I look forward to seeing the impact of infusing UD into our campus community as a whole."

The next FASPAS program will be offered in Fall 2014. Anyone interested in attending can contact Buchannan at

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