Project PACE/Disability Support Services
University of Arkansas at Little Rock,
2810 S. University Ave., SH#104,
Little Rock, AR 72204
(501) 569-8410 (v/tty)
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Universal Design Defined
“The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest
extent possible, without the need of adaptation or specialized design.”
The Center for Universal Design, North Carolina State University
"Universal Design in Education…
…means the preparation of curriculum, materials and environments so that they may be
used appropriately and with ease, by a wide variety of people."
Frank Bowe, Universal Design in Education
Universal Design does:
- Reduce barriers to learning
- Enable the students to be more self-sufficient
- Allow students to focus on what is important
Universal Design is not:
- A “one size fits all” approach
- A substitute for accommodations
- An attempt to remove academic challenges
- A way to ensure success for all students
- Synonymous with “accessibility”
- Only about the use of assistive technology
- Students with disabilities
- Students for whom English is a second language
- Non-traditional students
- Students with a variety of learning styles
- All students
Multiple Models for Applying Universal Design
- Universal Design in Education, Frank Bowe
- Universal Design of Instruction (UDI), University of Connecticut
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL),
Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)
- Universal Instructional Design (UID), University of Guelph, Canada
Universal Design in Education, Frank Bowe
In his book, Frank Bowe outlines the Principles of Universal Design as provided by
the Center for Universal Design, NCSU, and describes applications in the postsecondary
- Equitable Use - The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse
- Flexibility in use - The design accommodates a wide range of individual
preferences and abilities.
- Simple and intuitive - Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless
of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration
- Perceptible information - The design communicates necessary information
effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory
- Tolerance for error - The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences
of accidental or unintended actions.
- Low physical effort - The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and
with a minimum of fatigue.
- 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,
Universal Design of Instruction, University of Connecticut
In UDI, the principles above are adapted to apply to the educational setting, and two
principles are added:
- Community of Learners – The instructional environment promotes
interaction and communication among students and between students and faculty.
- Instructional Climate – Instruction is designed to be welcoming
UDI is described and models of UDI are provided on the FacultyWare site hosted by
the University of Connecticut
Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)
The UDL model emphasizes multiple means of:
Information about this model and many UDL resources can be found
Principles of Universal Instructional Design (UID)
The UID model applies the principles of universal design to instruction, stating
that instruction should:
- be accessible and fair.
- provide flexibility in use, participation and presentation.
- be straightforward and consistent.
- be explicitly presented and readily perceived.
- provide a supportive learning environment.
- minimize unnecessary physical effort or requirements.
- ensure a learning space that accommodates both students and instructional methods.
Source: Jaellayna Palmer, © University of Guelph
Some might say…
Universal Design is simply good pedagogy.
And this is true.
We have lots of models for good teaching.
And this is also true.
But even the best models for teaching have not always taken into consideration the needs of all students.
Until this becomes the norm...until postsecondary education is inclusive...Universal Design.
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