The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) at the National Disability Authority (NDA) has a remit to advance the promotion of Universal Design in education in Ireland. We work to integrate Universal Design as part of education programmes at Primary, Secondary, Third Level and in CPD. Programmes for younger learners also work to recognise the learning by the participating adults.

Integration of the Principles of Universal Design for more accessibility and usability helps to prioritise the needs of people with more diverse abilities, characteristics and preferences, leading to the creation of design solutions that reduce barriers and help enable all people to participate as members of society.

Our statutory remit in respect of third-level education is clearly set down in the Disability Act 2005. It states that:

"(3) In relation to assisting and promoting the introduction of the principles of universal design to courses of education and training, the Centre shall liaise with vocational and third level educational institutions and with professional bodies to —

(a) encourage the training in universal design of persons providing —

i. courses of education and training in universal design for persons preparing to engage in work affecting the environment, or

ii. courses of training for persons engaged in such work,

(b) ensure as far as practicable that courses of education and training in the principles of universal design are provided for persons engaged in such work, including architects, engineers, town planners, systems analysts, software designers, transport providers and designers of passenger transport vehicles and passenger vessels,

(c) ensure the development of appropriate curricula so that the concept of universal design forms an integral part of the aforesaid courses,

(d) ensure as far as practicable that examinations recognised by professional bodies in such courses include material relating to those principles."

Universal Design in Education and Training – policy Landscape in Ireland

Universal Design and inclusion are key to achieving the right to education and training as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first legally binding instrument to contain a reference to the concept of quality inclusive education and training. This clearly articulates the importance of Universal Design as the preferred approach to an inclusive society. We are pleased to present this revised paper which describes the current educational policy landscape in Ireland, and proposes a ‘whole systems’ approach to inclusive education. This paper has been updated following the Centre’s collaboration with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on the recent Path 4 Phase 1 funding call.

PATH 4 Requirements 

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an extension of, and is underpinned by Universal Design. UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn, including students with disabilities. UDL aims to improve the educational experience of all students by introducing more flexible methods of teaching, assessment and service provision to cater for the diversity of learners in our classrooms.

Universal Design in Education (UDE) focuses on a whole system design so that the physical and digital environments, the educational services and the teaching and learning can be easily accessed, understood and used by the widest range of learners and all stakeholders, in a more inclusive environment. We were pleased to collaborate with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on various aspects of the Path 4 scheme which was launched in June 2022. To assist Higher Education Institutions in preparing proposals under this scheme, we prepared advice and guidance in respect of:

You may read our guidance on Path 4 here. Whilst the paper was prepared primarily with the Path 4 scheme in mind, the materials can also be used to ensure that submissions to other funding strands incorporate Universal Design in Education.