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There are multiple models for universal design of education:

The 9 Principles of Universal Instructional Design

  1. Equitable
  2. Flexible
  3. Simple & Intuitive
  4. Perceptible information
  5. Tolerance for error
  6. Low physical effort
  7. Size and space for approach and use
  8. A community of learners
  9. Instructional climate

Image Source: Doyle, Tina., Dawson, Teresa (2004). Universal Instructional Design: Creating an Accessible Curriculum. University of Toronto: Scarborough Campus.

1. Equitable

In practice: 3

  • Electronic formats appear to be a common approach, notably course materials on a website.
  • Websites may, or may not be accessible or properly structured.
  • Website maintainers may not be aware of accessibility concerns relating to course materials on websites.

2. Flexible

In practice: 3

  • Multimodal material - audio, video, images that can be reused
  • Different interaction strategies including discussions (online and in class), hands-on lessons, etc.
  • Notes, exercises, tests (past and previous) available online or on paper to aid student-driven learning
  • Choice of assignments, tests, and due dates.

3. Simple & Intuitive

In practice: 3

  • Minimize the need to learn new tools to access content.
  • Differentiate between primary and secondary content.
  • Consistent class, learning, and marking structures.

4. Perceptible

In Practice:

  • Power Point presentation in class.
  • Lecture hand-outs to use during class (slide notes).
  • Available digital versions of printed materials.
  • Alt Text for images.

5. Tolerance for Error

In practice:

  • Breaking large assignments into smaller portions for intermediate feedback.
  • Frequent assessment and feedback throughout course.
  • Safe assessment environments. i.e. online, ample assessment time.
  • Immediate feedback for erroneous user action (i.e. for online forms).

6. Low Physical Effort

In practice:

  • Allow the use of word processors for submissions.
  • Make available electronic resources so students don't need to physically travel / acquire the materials.
  • Electronic submissions.

7. Size and Space for approach and use

In practice:

  • small groups: circular seating arrangment.
  • left-handed seats.

Tools for Reaching Diverse Learners

  • Links to online resources (like WCAG, and CAST) are provided to instruction designers. - Expectation is that designers will take these resources and implement what is needed / required.
  • Ten Simple Steps Toward Universal Design of Online Courses:
    • A good summary of design and implementation issues to consider.
    • Topics include: choosing a CMS, accessibility of CMS features like chat and evaluations.


Scott, S.S., McGuire, J.M., & Embry, P. (2002). Universal design for instruction fact sheet. Storrs : University of Connecticut , Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability.

UDI Online Project. (2010). Universal Design for Instruction Module. Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability, University of Connecticut, Storrs. .

3 Universal Instructional Design Principles at the University of Guelph. University of Guelph.

Doyle, Tina., Dawson, Teresa (2004). Universal Instructional Design: Creating an Accessible Curriculum. University of Toronto: Scarborough Campus.

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