This essay discusses Universal Design (UD) with respect to language and communication rights. Because Universal Design approaches aim at meeting human variability from the get-go, they must be able to address linguistic and communicative variability. Variability must individual variation in language functions and communication activities in the absence of disability and variability when speech, language or communicative disorders are present. Current conceptualizations of speech, language and communication disabilities take a person-centered approach and a bio-psycho-social framework of health and disease (WHO-ICF) that encompass three ontological domains: body functions and structures, activities, and participation. The framework crucially lists environmental factors that interact with each domain. I illustrate how UD can successfully be integrated with an ICF framework in the domain of speech, language and communication impairments; I then propose that the ICF model can be extended beyond disability to non-clinical populations and settings, to meet the communication rights for all.
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