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
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
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
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
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
Maximize “legibility” of essential information
Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations
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
Software applications that provide guidance when the user makes an inappropriate
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
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
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
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.