Implementing Universal Design in the Workplace

November 12, 2017 | Ariel Carlin, 2017 AAPD Summer Intern

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is a federal agency devoted to supporting people with disabilities and the aging population in our country. The administration, like many, have had changes this past summer including new leadership which has welcomed Melissa Ortiz as Commissioner. The Administration for Community Living deserves praise for their work and commitment to the American citizens.

What I found striking when interning with ACL was not only the diversity among cohorts but the workplace itself was inclusive and cognitive of Universal Design. Universal Design (UD) is a design concept that creates access to all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design in regards to products and environments. For example, all doors opened with the touch of a button, creating an overall ease of access throughout the workplace whether you were a wheelchair user or running from one meeting to another with full hands. Individual’s cubicles were designed for that specific employee. Some aspects of an individual’s cubicle that varied included lighting, desk height, number of computer screens, chair type, and or any assisted technology to effectively participate in daily work functions. It was evident that the ACL administration looked for optimal inclusion in all breadths of the work environment.

Interning with the Policy and Evaluation team was a very unique experience. Each day I gained more knowledge on federal policies regarding things such as housing or healthcare but more importantly I gained a greater understanding of the importance of diversity within the workplace. Seeing and working alongside individuals of varying abilities, race, religion, age, gender, sexuality or otherwise benefited the quality of work we produced. The varying perspectives and character strengths are vital in this field of work. To best serve and protect the American people through these areas of policy, the diverse cohort and inclusive, universal environment are necessary for success. ACL is a federal agency that models an inclusive workspace.

Experiencing this atmosphere this past summer was a privilege.


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Ariel Carlin is a 2017 AAPD Summer Intern. This summer she interned with the Administration for Community Living within the Department of Health and Human Services.

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