Designing for justice: How universal design theory could bolster health professional education research


  • Neera Jain University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Lara Varpio University of Pennsylvania, United States of America



qualitative research; equity; justice; research design; universal design; disability studies; health professional education


Universal design theory (UDT), emerging from the field of architecture and infused with the politics of the disability rights movement, refers to a way of planning for and responding to diversity that can be harnessed for research design. We argue that UDT is a critical tool for researchers in health professional education (HPE) to realise their obligations for social accountability, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in HPE. This paper introduces researchers to UDT and demonstrates how it could inform research design in HPE. We provide an in-depth, socio-political explanation of the theory and why it is important for HPE research, and we elucidate ways it can inform HPE research design and process—including the tensions that may arise in activating these principles alongside some research paradigms and conditions of the field. We seek to highlight the potential of universal design to transform research practice to advance justice.


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How to Cite

Jain, N., & Varpio, L. (2023). Designing for justice: How universal design theory could bolster health professional education research. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 24(4), 136–150.



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