As the workforce development system strives to meet the diverse needs of all its customers, particularly youth and adults with disabilities and those for whom English is not the primary language, a clear understanding of both universal service and universal design—and the ways they affect delivery of programs, services, and activities—is imperative. The concept of “universal access” is a means for ensuring that everyone has access to the One-Stop system and to core employment services. The technical definition of “universal access” under WIA is narrow, referring to the obligation on the part of recipients of WIA funds to make reasonable efforts—including through advertisement, recruitment, outreach, and targeting—to include participation of persons with disabilities in their programs and activities. However, when this definition is viewed in conjunction with the WIA nondiscrimination, equal opportunity, and effective communication requirements, WIA provides a framework for the broader definition of universal access proposed herein.
This paper explores the core concepts of “universal service” and “universal design” in the context of disability public policy and urges the adoption of a comprehensive definition of universal access that would apply to all programs and services in the United States’ workforce development One-Stop system and incorporate elements of universal access, universal service, architectural accessibility, programmatic accessibility, and universal design, as defined in the disability policy arena.