Tomorrow I have the opportunity to keynote the UDLL Conference: A European Perspective on UDL, in Gent, Belgium. This collaboration, which includes 170 ambassadors from 11 countries in Europe, is a testament to what Universal Design really means. The principles and Guidelines of UDL apply to all learners around the world and prove that best practices in education have no geographical borders.
UDL is built on a foundation that all learners are different, and yet they are the same. Regardless of variability or place of origin, all learners need a motivating environment with embedded options for engagement, representation, and action and expression. The European perspective, no doubt, will align to the perspective of all other continents as expert learning is a part of the human experience, and what brings us all together.
My experience in Gent has provided a solid foundation for the UDLL conference tomorrow. The city has been welcoming and inclusive, and it’s the perfect backdrop to foster collaboration and community. This morning as I walked to a caffe, I peered into storefronts and viewed a sign that supports a tragedy that occurred over 3500 miles away. “Peace for Orlando,” shares a powerful message about the ties that bind all of us.
At breakfast, a kind waitress took me back to the baked goods in the kitchen so I could point to what I wanted instead of struggling through the foreign text in the menu. On the same block, I admired the historical architecture of the city hall and modern graffiti on Werregarenstraat, where street artists are encouraged to decorate the alleyway for pedestrians.
The ever-changing canvas of bricks showcases and elevates talent that many other places deem merely vandalism. This co-existence of two very different types of art show an appreciation of art in its truest form – the creation of something beautiful in the eyes and hands of the creator.
I have walked this city as a stranger, but I have felt at home. Imagine if all learners in the classroom could feel the same way? Tomorrow, at UDLL, we’ll begin to discuss this on a global scale, with the goal that someday, it will be a reality for all learners. Our goal is that, as educators worldwide, we can truly see the connections amongst us and that when given options, we can all get to a place where we flourish and succeed in our own way.