Universal Design

Universal Design began as an architectural concept centering around the idea that accessibility features incorporated in building design would benefit the disabled and nondisabled alike. A good example of universal design at work is curb cuts on sidewalks. Originally designed for individuals who used wheelchairs for mobility, curb cuts have found practical uses for those pushing strollers, shopping carts or for those pulling wheeled bags behind them. The benefits of universally designed products, innovations and buildings have greater benefit than originally intended.

The Seven Principles of Universal Design are:

  1. Equitable Use
  2. Flexibility in Use
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use
  4. Perceptible Information
  5. Tolerance for Error
  6. Low Physical Effort
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use

The same principle can be applied to teaching and learning. Equity and Excellence in Higher Education (E&E link will open in a new window) is a grant program conducted by the University of Massachusetts/Boston and the University of New Hampshire. The program is designed by instructors for instructors to incorporate universal design principles in the courses they teach. The program web site is available to view, although it is still being developed. Program directors welcome the evaluation the web site by clicking the "Evaluate this Web site" link.