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Universal Design FAQ

Q. DEVICE-INDEPENDENCE: What does it mean for Web developers to design for "device-independence?"

A. "Device-independent" access means that a person may interact with Webpages using a wide variety of input and output devices (e.g., keyboard, mouse, or speech). If, for example, a selection can only be made with a mouse or other pointing device, someone who is using speech input or a keyboard alone will not be able to activate the function. Making Webpages device-independent benefits people with a variety of system configurations.

Q. BENEFITS OF UNVERSAL DESIGN: If I apply universal design principles to the development of my Web ages, who else besides people with disabilities will benefit?

A. People who will benefit from universal design of Webpages include people working under environmental constraints such as in noisy or noiseless environments; people whose hands or eyes are occupied with other activities; people for whom English is a second language; people using older, outdated computer equipment; and individuals using monochrome monitors.

Q. PRINTED MATERIALS: How can I assure that students who are blind or who have specific learning disabilities that affect their ability to read printed information have access to my course textbook and other printed materials?

A. Making the text of printed materials available on-line may provide the best solution. Post the information on an accessible Webpage or send to students via electronic mail. Check with the publisher or Learning Ally regarding the availability of alternative versions of the textbook (e.g., electronic or taped). Your campus disabled student services office might be able to help you obtain printed materials in alternative format.

Q. VIDEOTAPES: How do I apply universal design in the creation of a videotape presentation?

A. Include captioning for those who have hearing impairments. As the content is being videotaped, allow space at the bottom of the visual display so that key aspects of the image are not covered by the captioning. In addition, make sure that as much of the content, as reasonable, is spoken. This will minimize the amount of audio description required to make the videotape accessible to those who are blind. Your production staff, on campus or off-campus, can assist you in finding appropriate resources for audio description and captioning. Also consult the resource listed in this section of The Faculty Room. For example, WGBH/Descriptive Video Service can add an extra audio track that describes visual material.

Q. E-MAIL AND DISCUSSION GROUPS: Do electronic mail, distribution lists (e.g., LISTSERVs), and Usenet discussion groups create barriers for students with disabilities?

A. Text-based Internet resources are highly accessible to individuals using adaptive technology.

Q. CHAT: Are real-time chat systems accessible to everyone?

A. Real-time chat systems are difficult or impossible to use by individuals for whom input and output methods are slow. This includes some students with learning disabilities, those who are blind, and individuals with some mobility impairments.

For answers to more questions, search the Knowledge Base.