The following are the principles of universal design as they are applied in educational settings, as well as examples of each principle.

Principle 1: Equitable use

The instruction is useful and accessible to people with diverse abilities.
  • Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not
  • Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users
  • Make provisions for privacy, security, and safety equally available to all users
  • Make the instruction appealing to all users


  • Examples:
  • A website that is accessible to everyone, including students who are blind
  • Web-based courseware products with links to online supports and resources so all students can access materials as needed regardless of varying academic preparation, need for review of content, distance from campus, etc.
  • Principle 2: Flexibility in use

    The instruction accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Provide choices in methods of use
  • Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision
  • Provide adaptability to the user's pace


  • Examples:
  • A website that allows users to choose graphic or text versions
  • Varied instructional methods (lecture with a visual outline, group activities, use of stories, or web board based discussions) to provide different ways of learning and experiencing knowledge.
  • Principle 3: Simple and intuitive use

    Instruction is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity
  • Be consistent with student expectations and intuition
  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills
  • Arrange information consistent with its importance
  • Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion


  • Examples:
  • Advance organizers for class lectures
  • Grading rubrics for papers or projects to clearly lay out expectations for performance

  • Principle 4: Perceptible information

    The instruction communicates necessary information effectively to the student, regardless of ambient conditions or the student's sensory abilities.
  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information
  • Maximize “legibility” of essential information
  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations

    Examples:
  • A video shown during a course has captions
  • Text books, reading material, and other instructional supports in digital format or online so students with diverse needs (e.g., vision, learning, attention, English language learners) can access materials through traditional hard copy or with the use of various technological supports (e.g., screen reader, text enlarger, online dictionary)
  • Principle 5: Tolerance for error

    The instruction minimizes student errors.
  • Provide warnings of common errors
  • Provide fail-safe features


  • Examples:
  • Software applications that provide guidance when the user makes an inappropriate selection
  • Structuring a long-term course project so that students have the option of turning in individual project components separately for constructive feedback and for integration into the final product

  • Principle 6: Low physical effort

    The instruction is delivered efficiently and minimizes student fatigue.
  • Minimize repetitive actions and sustained physical effort, unless it is an essential part of the course


  • Examples:
  • Word prediction software programs
  • Allow students to use a word processor for writing and editing papers or essay exams

  • Principle 7: Size and space for approach and use

    Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of student's body size, posture, or mobility.
  • Provide a clear line of sight to important elements
  • Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance


  • Examples:
  • Instructor faces the class rather than the chalkboard while speaking
  • In small class settings, use of a circular seating arrangement to allow students to see and face speakers during discussion

  • Sources:

    1. Bowe, F. (2000). Universal design in education: Teaching nontraditional students. Westport , CT : Bergin & Garvey.

    2. Center for Universal Design

    3. Shaw, S., Scott, S., & McGuire, J. (2001). (Teaching college students with learning disabilities. ERIC Digest #e618). Arlington , VA : Council for Exceptional Children.