Universal Design

What is Universal Design?

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people. Application of universal design improves access for people with and without disabilities. In the classroom it is intended to maximize the usability of educational materials for all students regardless of their sensory, physical, or learning abilities.
(Rickerson Deitz, Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2003)

Universal Design in Instruction draws upon and extends principals of universal design as used in architecture and product design. The unique aspect of universal design in both architecture and instruction is that buildings and activities are not retrofitted; they are designed from their inception to include individuals with disabilities.

What constitutes a disability under the law?

Under ADA disability is defined as a condition that limits one or more major life activity.
· It is intrinsic to the individual
· Usually a permanent condition
A handicap is defined as anything that creates a barrier to access. These barriers may be environmental, behavioral or attitudinal.

The goal of universal design is to create an environment that is so accessible that the disability is no longer a handicap.

The Seven Principles of Universal Design

1. Equitable Use - The design is useful to people with diverse abilities. Example: course materials should be made available in all formats (on disk, on tape, in Braille, etc.)he
2. Flexibility in Use - The design accommodates a wide range of individual abilities. Example: furniture should be available to accommodate left handed students
3. Simple and Intuitive Use - Use of design is easy to understand regardless of the user's experience. Example: clearly written syllabus with assignment requirements and grading rubrics
4. Perceptible Information - The design communicates information regardless of the user's sensory abilities. Example: materials should accommodate all three primary learning styles, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic
5. Tolerance for Error - The design minimizes adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. Example: curriculum design incorporates the reality that students will make mistakes and minimizes penalties for risk taking behaviors
6. Low Physical Effort - The design can be used efficiently with a minimum of fatigue. Example: equipment in labs should be positioned for use of proper body mechanics for all students including those who use wheelchairs
7. Size and Space for Approach and Use - Example: access aisles should be kept clear

What is required to make universal design work?

1. Lots of planning
2. Creativity
3. Familiarity with adaptive technology
4. Natural supports

Benefits of Universal Design

· Inclusion of all students into programs and activities
· Modifications made for students with disabilities benefit all students
· Less expensive than traditional retrofitting of activities and buildings
· Sustainability