My name is Jennifer Sullivan Sulewski and I am a Research Associate at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston. At ICI I have worked on a variety of research and evaluation projects related to services and supports for people with disabilities. I currently am most involved with Work Without Limits, a public-private partnership funded by the Massachusetts Medicaid Infrastructure and Comprehensive Employment Opportunities (MI-CEO) grant to strengthen the Massachusetts workforce and advance work opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities in Massachusetts.
Universal Design refers to “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/about_ud/udprincipleshtmlformat.html). The principles of universal design can be applied to evaluation to ensure that all relevant populations are included at every stage of the work, from project design to sharing of findings.
Hot Tip: Universal design is helpful to think about even if your evaluation is not specifically focused on disability programs or issues. You will likely encounter people with disabilities or members of other vulnerable populations whatever your focus, so it is good to be prepared. Moreover, good universal design works better for everyone, even those without disabilities or other barriers. Think of bar patrons watching TV with closed captioning on, or people with strollers or rolling suitcases using elevators and curb cuts.
Hot Tip: One key aspect of applying universal design to evaluation work is to think about all the different ways people communicate or access information. For example, if you are conducting a survey on-line, you might offer the option to do it on paper or over the phone if respondents prefer not to respond by computer. Or if you are doing interviews by phone you may find that some respondents prefer to speak in person or respond by e-mail.
Rad Resource: For more tips, join the AEA Coffee Break Webinar on this topic on Thursday, August 5 at 2PM – click here to learn more and sign up. The Disability and Other Vulnerable Populations TIG is also hosting multiple sessions related to Universal Design, including a skill building workshop and a roundtable, at the upcoming American Evaluation Association Annual Conference in San Antonio the first week in November, so look for us there!
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Disabilities and Other Vulnerable Populations (DOVP) Week with our colleagues in the DOVP AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our DOVP members and you may wish to consider subscribing to our weekly headlines and resources list where we’ll be highlighting DOVP resources.