The First Arab Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Conference: Scientific Perspectives for the future of Inclusive Education in Arab Countries, organized by Qatar University (QU) via videoconferencing, began yesterday with the participation of a group of experts and researchers in several universities and higher education institutions in the Arab world.

The four-day conference which kicked off on 14 November will continue until 17 November, the conference will discuss the latest discoveries in brain-based education sciences, learning sciences, accessibility, assistive technology, curriculum design, scientific foundations and practical applications of UDL, technological tools that support inclusive and flexible education, methods that support all students, the concept of comprehensive learning design, ways to provide flexibility in ways to provide information. In addition, it will also focus on ways of responding to students or demonstrating knowledge and skills, as well as ways to share to students to reduce barriers on the process of explanation, providing appropriate academic support and maintaining high academic achievement for all students, including students with disabilities.

The conference also seeks to present a comprehensive scientific approach to the process of teaching and learning from various disciplines concerned in supporting the different dimensions of education, and highlighting and exchanging experiences between Arab universities in the field of integrating students with disabilities within the framework of the comprehensive learning design, as it aims to introduce the principles of inclusive design for learning. It also aims to advance education in the Arab world, raise awareness in the field of architectural accessibility, digital accessibility, assistive technology, encourage scientific research in the field of UDL, and to provide practical solutions to advance UDL programmes in the Arab world.

Universities participating from Arab countries include: American University of Beirut; Saint Joseph University; University of Baghdad; Hashemite University; University of Tunis; University of Kuwait; Hebron University; Helwan University; Yarmouk University; Sultan Qaboos University; Kasdi Merbah University; University College of Applied Sciences; University of Manouba; University of Algiers; and Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

In his speech on the occasion, QU President Dr Hassan Rashid al-Derham affirmed the university’s interest in people with special needs, indicating that this interest stems from their basic rights guaranteed by law and placed by the State at the top of its priorities, which enables people with special needs to live their lives normally, especially as the university has focused on students with special needs in the design of buildings that make them access university lectures and facilities easily.

HE the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the Arab League for Humanitarian Affairs Sheikha Hessa bint Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani noted the importance of this conference in integrating people with special needs in educational systems, pointing out that there have been great developments in this field and many moral and legal obligations have been put in place according to which countries, including Arab countries, are obligated to submit regular reports to the Disability Council International, in which each country explains what it has done for inclusion.

The Founding President of the Monitoring Committee of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mohamed al-Tarawneh stressed that people with disabilities have the right to access workplaces, studies and all facilities, especially as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed in 2002 and 2004, includes commitments to achieve access by more than 99.9 % for people with special needs in all places.

The conference is open for: Administrative and educational leaders in public and higher education institutions; faculty members in universities; teachers in general and in special education; researchers and those interested in the conference topic; postgraduate students; and assistive technology and digital access institutions.