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HDI to pilot Professional Certification in Universal Design

A University of Kentucky (UK) Human Development Institute (HDI) Fund for Excellence award has been given to Christina Espinosa Bard and Patti Singleton to offer a professional certification to equip people to use the principles of Universal Design (UD) in the workplace. This will expand HDI’s current undergraduate certificate program available to UK students from any field of study.

HDI is a national leader in embedding UD practices in learning by examining goals, materials, methods, and assessment for usability factors. These practices will be used to develop and pilot a six-hour certificate program that will include case studies and activities to support practical application of UD principles in the workplace.

To increase capacity and raise awareness about UD principles, UK employees will be provided an opportunity to complete the certificate at no cost to them. This project supports HDI’s mission of promoting the inclusion and contributions of people with disabilities through information sharing, leadership, and advocacy. 

Contact or for more information.

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Universal Design Student Spotlight: Ellie Fahey

UK junior Ellie Fahey was looking for a note to get out of class when she happened upon the Human Development Institute’s Universal Design Program. 

Ellie explained, “I got a notification through the College of Health Sciences about the Special Olympics med event that they do every year and it was conflicting with one of my classes, so I was trying to see if I could get an excuse note so I could go [volunteer].”

MedFest offers the physical exam that all athletes need to participate in Special Olympics sports and is led by volunteer physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and medical students.

While trying to get her excuse note, Ellie expressed how passionate she is about working with people with disabilitiesand was referred to HDI because of her interest. She said, “It was kind of by chance that I even heard of it, but then once I started talking to people in HDI, I just took my first class [in Universal Design], and now I’ve decided to continue on with it and I really like it.”

In addition to the certificate program, Ellie is studying Human Health Sciences with a minor in health promotion and started working as a research assistant. Her next course in the Universal Design program is a practicum that she is doing with HDI’s Kentucky Inclusive Health Collaborative team.

Part of her practicum experience will involve working on awomen’s health project with women with disabilities. Ellie explained that “they don’t get breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings as frequently as people without disabilities, so we’re trying to figure out why.” Next steps will include overcoming barriers, encouraging screenings, and getting patients seen.

Ellie added, “Their rates [of these cancers] are higher and that’s just obviously not okay.” She has already applied some Universal Design principles to the project by using plain language in project documents.

When asked about her perspective on Universal Design Ellie said, “A lot of people think Universal Design is for people with disabilities… But I think it’s more like designing the world so it’s accessible for everybody, so we don’t have to necessarily have special things for people… [It’s] offering differentiation in the world to make it the best for everybody.”

Ellie plans to go into healthcare as a physician’s assistant working with underserved populations. She sees Universal Design as a way to make healthcare more accessible by using the plain language in health-related communication.

She said, “I think it’s super important to draw attention to what needs to be done to keep your body healthy. The Wellness Wednesdays that our team does, I think that those are really awesome… they’re always really informative, and teaching people about their health in a way that’s understandable to them is the most important thing.”

Ellie went on to describe how this approach will apply to her work:

As a future provider, what I want to do for my patients is to teach them about their health so that they can take control of their own health and be educated and empowered in their own bodies… I’d rather every patient be a part of the conversation and make sure they really understand what’s going on with their body and how we’re planning to help it get better. And I think Universal Design is a big part of that… because everyone has different backgrounds and different health, and everyone should be able to have the ability to understand what’s going on with their body… I think I’ll have a unique perspective going into healthcare fields with this Universal Design background and really focusing on each patient as an individual.

While shadowing healthcare professionals, Ellie noticed how important work is, for people with and without disabilities.She said, “When we take that opportunity away from people with disabilities, I feel like it kind of isolates them from society in a way.”

To support giving people that opportunity, Ellie is helping with fundraising and promotion for a nonprofit called Gerry’s Café in her hometown of Arlington Heights, Illinois.The café will employ young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

During high school in Illinois, Ellie worked with people with disabilities in a career life skills program. She said, “I just loved it and it was the best part of my day, every day… I really love talking to them. It was just like an instant connection… and then I just never stopped from there… I still have my students FaceTime me all the time.”

Ellie’s research assistantship at HDI and her studies in Universal Design are a way to continue what she started in high school. “I’m really grateful to be a part of the women’s health team… and I’m really excited to see where that project goes,” she said. “I’m really glad I found this, and it was totally by chance that I even heard of it, so I’m really excited to keep going.”

For more information on HDI’s Universal Design Certificate, click this link:

Article written by Amanda Corbin.

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Universal Design Student Spotlight: Kyra Seevers

Kyra Seevers, who describes herself as a lifelong learner, is a senior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Sociology. She works with the digital restoration initiative in UK’s computer science department which she says sparked her interest in interdisciplinary computer research. Because she is passionate about creating accessible software and studies user experience design and human-computer interaction, the Human Development Institute’s undergraduate certificate in Universal Design was a perfect fit for Kyra.

Kyra says, “Universal Design is not just designing for people with disabilities. It’s making the world around you so that we don’t need special accommodations. It’s accessible to everyone from the start.”

A Practicum in Germany

One of Kyra’s practicums took her to Germany where she worked with a university in Munich to create software to help people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) cross the street. She worked directly with people in the early stages of the disease to try and understand things like what colors, shapes, and motion they were able to pick up in their peripheral vision.

I used a lot of my Universal Design experience directly related to disability and helping people with visual disabilities be safer,” she said.

A Practicum with Google

In her second practicum, which she completed last fall, Kyra interned at Google in the area of web security where she worked on making the experience of browsing the internet safer and less intrusive on Google Chrome.

So that was a completely different pivot from my previous practicum, but both of them showed me different ways that Universal Design is so important to the area of technology,” Kyra said.

Universal Design and Disability

Kyra encourages others to take advantage of the Universal Design certificate program: “I would highly, highly recommend, even if you can’t complete the entire certificate, at least taking the intro course because it’s one of those life changing classes”. Because of what she learned in the certificate program, Kyra has gained an interest in disability rights advocacy.

Universal Design is necessary in every field… because Universal Design is about creating a world around us that is more accessible to everyone, and every single job that you can possibly have gives back to the world around you, contributes to the community around you, and by learning the skills of Universal Design, everyone can contribute every day to making the world around you more accessible.

For more information on HDI’s Universal Design Certificate, click this link:

-Amanda Corbin

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HDI Hosts Virtual Open House for the Undergraduate Certificate in Universal Design

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute invites current and prospective students, staff, and faculty to a Virtual Open House to learn about the Undergraduate Certificate in Universal Design.  Universal Design creates products and environments that are as usable as possible by as many people as possible. Principles of Universal Design are utilized to make products, systems, buildings, classrooms, and other environments that are accessible to everyone. 

Register at to participate via Zoom on Thursday, May 21 at 3:00pm ET. A stipend up to $3000 is offered to students who are accepted into the certificate program on a competitive basis. Click here to learn more about the certificate program or you can contact Dr. Phillip Rumrill, Director of Research and Training, at 

Flyer image with diverse photos of students and same content as in article.

HDI Student Planning Still We Rise Banquet to Honor Resiliency of Fellow UK Students

Last year, as part of their studies in the Human Development Institute’s (HDI) Universal Design Certificate Program, two undergraduate students, Lauren Brown and Kennedy Guess, wrote and received an Inclusive Excellence Student Program Grant for $9,975. The Inclusive Excellence funds were awarded to the HDI in September to host a Still We Rise banquet that will recognize the strengths and resilience of students who have overcome extreme circumstances. Along with the Human Development Institute, partners on the Still We Rise banquet include the UK Disability Resource Center, Student Support Services, and the Martin Luther King Center.

Nominations are now open for the Still We Rise 2019 award. To nominate a student, submit a brief personal statement from the student, student resume, and a letter of support from UK faculty/staff or from a fellow student. Deadline to nominate is December 15, 2018. All materials can be submitted electronically to Kennedy Guess: Continue reading