Universal Design

Universal design (UD) for learning is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, evaluation, activities, and content in such a way that all people can participate in the educational process without adaptation or retrofitting.

Using this concept, accommodations would likely not be necessary because options for learning and evaluation are available to anyone participating in a class. This approach to teaching and learning is an ideal, but incorporating some aspect of this instructional approach may be feasible as well as helpful to students.

Simple Examples of UD

  • Selecting textbooks that have accessible formats such as audio or e-text
  • Selecting video or audio files that have captioning; if not, arrange with your department for transcription services to provide a transcript to accompany the video or audio file
  • Selecting accessible software or websites for course content or supplemental course materials

Reasons to Include UD in Course Design

  • UD is consistent and promotes learner-centered education.
  • UD promotes the learning of all students.
  • UD meets the emerging spirit of all legislation concerning accessibility.
  • UD reduces the need for special accommodations for our learners.

How to Make a Classroom Accessible to All

For documents, web pages, Canvas and Blackboard:

  • Written material readable by text reading software (i.e. JAWS, NVDA, or other text reading software)
  • Lecture notes or outlines provided on Canvas or Blackboard can be read by JAWS or other text reading software
  • Real time captioning, a script, or ASL interpreting available for online lecture capture
  • Lecture videos available in closed captioning
  • Images have smart tags that explain verbally what they are when rolled over by a cursor
  • Discussion boards/tests/quizzes available online able to be read by text readers
  • Use of voice recognition software to answer tests and quiz questions
  • Background or print colors able to be manipulated by the student to enhance readability
  • Text able to be magnified and/or enlarged by the student
  • Adequate contrast between the background color and the text color
  • Tests and quizzes that are normally timed be un-timed
  • Provide texts/supplemental materials in alternative formats

Related Considerations

  • Are alternative assignments provided so students can chose a format that best fits their learning style or works best with their disability issues?
  • Are oral exams, presentations, or papers possible alternatives to in class testing?
  • Are hands-on applications, field trips, or experiments accessible to students with disabilities? Are students able to work in teams or choose alternatives?
  • Is the classroom accessible to all students? Are desks and chair heights adjustable? Is appropriate lighting, heating and cooling provided? Discuss safety and evacuation procedures. Send concerns to OAS.
  • When using a whiteboard or doing an in-class demonstration, explain verbally what is being shown for those with visual impairments or whose view may be blocked. Face the class when speaking and don't block your face, for those hard of hearing.
  • Provide multiple, varied, and redundant learning opportunities. Provide regular feedback and encourage feedback from students.

Related Reading

Additional information can be found in these University of Washington resources: