What are the benefits of universal design of a distance learning course for students without disabilities?
People without disabilities may have temporary and/or situational limitations that are similar to the limitations imposed by disabilities. For example, people who cannot access graphics due to computer system limitations are in a situation similar to that of students who are blind. A noisy environment that prohibits the use of audio features imposes constraints similar to those faced by students with hearing impairments. Those for whom English is a second language experience reading difficulties similar to those experienced by people with some types of learning disabilities. Individuals using monochrome monitors face limitations similar to those faced by students who are color-blind. People who need to operate a computer but whose hands are occupied with other activities face challenges similar to those faced by individuals who use a hands-free input method because of a disability.
Applying universal design principles assists people with and without disabilities. For example, using clear and simple language and navigational mechanisms on web pages facilitates use by those whose native language is not the one in which the course is taught, as well as people with visual and learning disabilities. People who have turned off support for images on their browsers in order to maximize access speed benefit when multimedia features provide text alternatives for the content, as do people who are blind. Similarly, people who cannot view the screen because they must attend to other tasks benefit from speech output systems that are often used by people who are blind. Captions provided on videos and video clips assist people who work in noisy or noiseless surroundings and people for whom English is a second language, along with people who have hearing impairments. Making sure that information conveyed with color is also available without color benefits those using monochrome monitors, in addition to those who are color-blind. Providing multiple formats of information also addresses differences in learning styles.
For more information on universal design explore:
- The Center for Universal Design in Education,
- The Center for Universal Design,
- AccessDL, the Center for Accessible Distance Learning,
- Real Connections: Making Distance Learning Accessible to Everyone or view the video by the same title,
- 20 Tips for Instructors about Making Online Learning Courses Accessible or view the video by the same title, and
- Creating Inclusive Learning Opportunities in Higher Education: A Universal Design Toolkit.