Wednesday, December 22, 2021
In Favour of Universal Design: The Argument for Continued Hybrid Online/In-Person Courses in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic with a Focus on Students with Disabilities
Katherine Benson (University of British Columbia), In Favour of Universal Design: The Argument for Continued Hybrid Online/In-Person Courses in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic with a Focus on Students with Disabilities, SSRN (2021):
The global outbreak of the novel 2019-nCoV coronavirus - colloquially referred to as COVID-19 - has had far-reaching implications for post-secondary institutions. There is a tension between post-secondary institutions' desire to provide in-person education and the legal implications of facilitating a situation which carries inherent risks of spreading a novel disease. The first section of this paper makes the argument that hybrid learning - where both online and in-person instruction is made available - is an example of “universal design.” Universal design includes the greatest number of people in post-secondary education and should be embraced by post-secondary institutions as a way to attain their goals of reducing the barriers students have in accessing high-quality education. The second section of this paper makes the argument that delivering classes, which could successfully be offered in an online format, in an in-person-only format while COVID-19 remains active in the community violates both the BC Humans Rights Code and universities’ contractual obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled students. This paper explores what reasonable accommodation means in the face of COVID-19. This paper only explores the legal frameworks present within British Columbia and uses the University of British Columbia as a case study.