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

21 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2021

See all articles by Katherine Benson

Katherine Benson

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 28, 2021

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Legal Education, Accessibility, Students with Disabilities, COVID-19, Universal Design, Hybrid Learning, Online Learning, Disability Accommodation, Human Rights Law, Duty to Accommodate

Suggested Citation

Benson, Katherine, 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 (June 28, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3875075 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3875075

Katherine Benson (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada

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