Classroom Universal Design

What is Universal Design?

According to Ronald Mace at the Centre for Universal Design, “The design of products and environments to be useable, by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation for specialized design” (as cited in Burgstahler, 2015, p. 13).  This design is ease of access to educational material to all students not only students with disabilities.

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, outlines these 7 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 individual 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 comfortably 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.              

Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. (n.d.). What is Universal Design?: The 7 Principles. 

How can you help achieve Universal Design in and out of the classroom?

Within the field of education, students learn and adapt to a variety of different learning techniques that are specific to their learning profile. Diversifying the learning environment will allow for greater success in the high majority of students, rather than focusing solely on the traditional learning style. Here are some simple ways to incorporate Universal Design into your course; making all documents on Moodle PDF format which transcribes effectively with reading software, closed captioning on in class videos would assist students with hearing impairments but also those sitting near the back of the classroom, and using plain blue backgrounds on powerpoint presentations allows for the majority of people to better process the print.

Burgstahler, S.E., (Eds.). (2015). Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice, Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.  

How can you learn more?

Check out these online resources to learn more about Universal Design and practical ways to implement it into your course.

Universal Design. What is it? Washington Education Universal Design Education, Principles, and Applications

UDL on Campus  UDL Universe - A Comprehensive Faculty Development Guide