Updated: Aug 17, 2019
Access is an unusual word in that it implies something when the opposite is often the case. Having "access" to something does not mean a person can actually use it.
I am committed to ensuring every child has both access and the ability to access every part of our education system. Not everyone needs the same thing to take advantage of the same thing. A tall person may not need a step stool to reach the top shelf, but a shorter person may - access is not truly met if the step stool is considered an extra and not provided.
Universal design is a human factors based approach to problem solving and design that has many applications within education. The basic idea is that by creating something that is truly accessible to every person, everyone benefits and the solution is better than creating many options that might fit only select individuals.
Access is critically important to our students (and staff) with disabilities, but also can provide incredible benefits to the non-disabled population as well - for instance many children do not have a diagnosed disability, but may in fact have needs that would be met without any formal testing if universal design were the standard methodology within a classroom. Many students may have a temporary developmental delay that could be resolved with a classroom that is using universal design.
Access to me also is about what a child brings to the table. Many children do not live in homes that have sufficient resources to be sending in money for field trips, or participating in extra curricular activities which everyone knows are no longer really extra if someone wants to get into college. I strongly believe that if the public schools are involved, it must be free in every way. Anything less is creating a separate grouping, and separate does not mean equal.