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Universal Design Applications

At the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, a group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers established the following set of principles of universal design to provide guidance in the design of environments, communications, and products. These principles can be applied to academic programs, instruction, distance learning courses, and facilities.

  1. Equitable Use. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. For example, a Web site that is designed so that it is accessible to everyone, including people who are blind, employs this principle.

  2. Flexibility in Use. The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. An example is a museum that allows a visitor to choose to read or listen to the description of the contents of a display case.

  3. Simple and Intuitive Use. Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Science lab equipment with control buttons that are clear and intuitive is a good example of an application of this principle.

  4. Perceptible Information. The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities. An example of this principle not being employed is when television programming is projected in noisy public areas like academic conference exhibits without captioning.

  5. Tolerance for Error. The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. An example of a product applying this principle is an educational software program that provides guidance when the user makes an inappropriate selection.

  6. Low Physical Effort. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue. For example, doors that are easy to open by people with a wide variety of physical characteristics demonstrate the application of this principle.

    7. Size and Space for Approach and Use. Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility. A science lab work area designed for use by students with a wide variety of physical characteristics and abilities is an example of employing this principle.

The Faculty Room includes five applications of universal design that are of particular interest to postsecondary faculty and administrators. They are universal design of:

Check Your Understanding
One application of universal design involves access to library programs and resources. Which of the following are examples of universal design that might contribute to library accessibility for students with disabilities? Choose a response.

  1. Wheelchair accessible facilities.

  2. Staff trained in the use of TDD/TTY.

  3. Resource delivery services.

  4. Printed materials in alternative formats.

  5. Computer work station with adaptive technology.

Employing universal design principles in everything we do makes a more user-friendly world for all of us. It creates an accessible environment, minimizing the need to alter it for individuals with special needs.

Universal design strategies can be employed when engaging in the following academic activities: