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What is Universal Design or UD?

Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. This concept was born out of architecture and design, but has great potential to impact disability-related access.

Seven Principles of Universal Design

  1. Equitable use | The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in use |The design accommodates a wide range of preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and intuitive use | Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible information | The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for error | The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low physical effort | The design can be used efficiently and comfortable and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and space for approach and use | Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.


By employing universal design for learning (UDL) strategies, faculty and instructors can create assessments, activities, and course materials that are accessible and inclusive for a diverse range of students. The primary goal of inclusive course design is to maximize student learning by increasing access and participation and reducing individual modifications.

Below are common curricular features and the potential, positive impact of their design with increased access of in-person and online environments.

Lecture Content

Provides students options for accessing course content and may remove the need for individual note takers in class

  • Provide all students with lecture content in multiple formats such as PowerPoint slides, videos, outlines, and/or class notes before lecture
  • Use provided templates for PPT slides and avoid inserted textboxes
  • Record lecture to allow students to re-watch on their own time
    • Include automatic, machine-generated transcripts/captions when possible
    • Learn techniques for ensuring accessible Zoom experiences (information below)
  • Allow for students to use their own personal electronic devices such as laptops, tablets and recorders to capture lecture content

Accessible Course Materials

Allows for all students to access written material in the same format without delay for converting

  • Ensure documents and PDF’s are accessible
    • Scanned documents cannot be read by a screen reader or assistive technology and will require Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert it to an accessible format
  • Use textbooks with an online or electronic option
  • Ensure all videos, including those created by you and outside sources, are captioned before being made available to all students

Alternative Assessments

Allows students to demonstrate mastery of course material without the need for accommodations such as extended time

  • Short, low-stakes, frequent assessments
  • Online assessments or projects where time is not an essential element
  • Written assignments such as essays, reviews, or abstracts
  • Presentations
  • Case studies


**This page was adopted from The University of Arizona

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