Universal Design: Accessibility for All

Universal Design: Accessibility for All

“Universal Design for Learning is an approach to curriculum that minimizes barriers and maximizes learning for all students.”

— CAST, Center for Applied Special Technology

Much of my work with the Academic Success Center is focused on making sure students have equitable access to the resources they need to succeed. I work closely with Melinda Gunning to help provide accommodations and support to students. Since my time on staff in this department, I have gained a better understanding of what accommodations are because, if I am being honest, I had some major misconceptions about the purpose of accommodations and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in higher education. I am learning more every day about how by making education accessible to students with disabilities, you are improving the experiences of everyone on campus.

I didn’t expect to find my call to ministry in the Academic Success Center. I remember being in church when I heard my youth pastor say something that seemed cliché: “One of you could be the next person to stand up here.” I thought, “There is no way that I would speak in front of a group of people every Sunday and Wednesday.” Of course, the moment I denied this, I realized I was being called, and there was a high likelihood I would be up there someday.

Looking back on my journey, after taking every step I thought was necessary to answer my call, I realized I was doing something wrong—this tends to happen when we try to enact our own plans on top of God’s plans. I had to connect with God’s plan for my life more intentionally; I had to understand where I was supposed to be in that moment.

I learned what my passion for ministry stemmed from—I love being able to walk alongside others and help them grow beyond what they thought they were capable of doing. In addition to my work in the Academic Success Center, which now includes the Office of Disability Access and Education, I do this in multiple other capacities, such as church and the EDGE Challenge Course (email me, I would love to talk about it).

What does UDL and equitable access to education mean for us as Christians and members of this community? It means that for us to Transform Purposely we must consider the members of our community that experience education in a unique way—whether you can see that difference or not. UDL seems like a heavy burden to bear, and while it may present an upfront cost, it pays dividends on the backend. UDL makes our classes, our campus and the FPU experience accessible to everyone, which will bring more students to an environment where we can share the Gospel with them as well as professional knowledge. Is this not our goal as a Christian community?

If putting closed-captions on course videos for students who are hard-of-hearing, describing visuals and illustrations for students with low vision, allowing lectures to be recorded for students with ADHD and ensuring course documents can be read by text-to-speech programs for students with dyslexia gives us the opportunity to educate and share the Gospel more effectively with our community, is it not our responsibility to do so?

I am encouraged by the members of the FPU community who are championing these efforts in their classrooms and offices, and I know that FPU has been making great strides towards developing an education that is accessible to every student. I pray that in our striving to be more like Jesus, we can be like the shepherd who leaves the 99 to rescue the one lost sheep. Let us turn to help those who need it now to advance the community as a whole.


Matthew Wilfong

Academic Success Administrator, Academic Success Center