Plain Language Summary: Universal Design
Most people will have a disability during their lifetime or will know someone who does. Also, the way we interact with the world can be affected in many ways. Some examples are breaking a bone, being pregnant, or not being able to focus in a noisy environment. This is why universal design benefits everyone. Universal design means making products and environments that people of different ages, sizes, or disability status can use. Some examples of universal design are captioned videos and automatic sliding doors. However, universal design applies to more than objects. Programs and education can also be universally designed. For example, using a variety of teaching and instructional methods can help more people learn.
Universal design applies to mental health too. A person’s mental health struggles can affect how they interact with their environment. For example, a student with anxiety may have trouble engaging and learning in school. One recommendation is using universally designed mental health programming in schools. This can mean teaching all students coping strategies, which helps reduce stigma too. Also, not everyone has equal access to mental health resources. A person’s language skills, income level, and other personal characteristics can limit resources.
There are seven universal design principles that can help when planning a product, program, or environment.
The University of Washington’s DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center website has a process you can follow when using universal design. There are also additional resources about universal design in education and software.
On the CAST website, you can find guidelines about using universal design with teaching. These guidelines are available in multiple languages and can be found on the CAST’s downloads page.
Also, the Web Accessibility Initiative’s Introduction to Web Accessibility has information on how to make a website accessible. This site offers many resources and is available in Spanish. You can translate the information into other languages by using a tool at the top of their page.
Read the full Universal Design fact sheet.
A powerpoint presentation of information about adults with depression and disabilities including guiding principles for practitioners.
Plain Language Summary: Using a Strengths-Based Therapeutic Approach with People with Developmental Disabilities
When mental health professionals work with people who have developmental disabilities, it is important for them to use a “strengths-based approach”. This applies to the way they speak with and help their client. A strengths-based approach means focusing on what the person can do, not what they cannot do because of their disability. They should recognize traits related to their client’s disability that make them unique. This helps clients to see that these traits contribute to their identity positively.
A strengths-based approach to therapy should be “person-centered”. This means that the therapist understands that the client is the expert on their own life. They should let the client explain their own experiences. They should also help the client discover their strengths to help find solutions. There are specific forms of therapy that are both strengths-based and person-centered. Therapists can also use these basic principles to meet their clients’ needs using other forms of therapy.
An important aspect of a strengths-based approach to therapy is to encourage self-determination. Self-determination is a person’s ability to act for themselves. This includes setting goals, facing challenges, and learning from mistakes. People with developmental disabilities often do not have the chance to make their own choices because others wrongly assume they are not able to do so. Therapists can help clients with disabilities gain confidence in their own decision-making abilities. One way to do this is by giving them chances to experience it in therapy. For example, they can use age-appropriate communication with them, support them as they demonstrate their strengths, and allow the client to speak for themselves.
Clients with disabilities first need to identify what their strengths are. Then, once the client is aware of their strengths, they need to build upon them. Several interventions, or activities done as part of therapy, are explained in the fact sheet to accomplish these tasks.
For more information, read the full Using a Strengths-Based Therapeutic Approach with People with Developmental Disabilities fact sheet.
The understanding that people can be dually diagnosed with intellectual disability (ID) and mental illness is relatively recent. Up until the last 30 to 40 years, it was assumed that people with ID could not also have a mental illness, and behavioral challenges were seen as a consequence of cognitive limitations rather than possible symptoms of underlying psychiatric conditions.
A suicide intervention and prevention plan from the Oregon Health Authority intended for the general population but with mention of screening for people with disabilities.