This is the question that all students need to ask before choosing where to study.

Uncertain students standing with question mark cards

A university that is access-friendly:

WILL have all learning materials developed and delivered in such a way that you can access them using your mobile device and personal applications. Many students choose to listen to their readings while exercising or working. By having all learning materials accessible, you will have the choice to use text to speech and other apps.

WILL have inherent requirements and information about assessment available for every course prior to enrollment. This will help you choose the courses that are right for you.

WILL have all information for students available in an accessible and easy to understand format.  This includes information about courses, fees, where to go for help and support networks across campus. If a university is inaccessible at the point of enrolment, this can be a good warning sign of things to come.

WILL have inbuilt flexibility so that you can learn at your own pace and in the way that you like to learn. Many universities now record lectures so that you can listen to them online and at a time that suits you.

WILL ensure that students from a diverse background are welcome and catered for. This includes students from different social and cultural groups and students with a disability. By attending a university that has a diverse student cohort, you will be provided with a strong foundation for your global career.

WILL have all audio and video for their courses transcribed or captioned. This will help students with a hearing loss, those whose first language is not English and those who simply learn better by being able to read as well as listen to their lectures.

WILL have student support staff prepared to assist you with your access needs as necessary. Sometimes accidents, illness and disability happen. As a student enrolling in a university it is good for you to have the confidence that no matter what, your university is ready, willing and able to ensure that you have full access to the learning experience.

Progressive universities globally are considering universal design (http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/instruction.html) for all of their courses, thereby providing flexibility and greater access for all of their students. So before making your choice, don’t forget to ask:

Excuse me, is your university access-friendly?

Sharon Kerr is CEO of the Global Access Project an initiative of the Higher Education Consulting Group.  Sharon will be presenting on universal design of curriculum at the CSUN 2015 Conference in San Diego California in March 2015.  If you would like to discuss universal design with GAP or line up a meeting, please email: contact@he-cg.com