Universal design is a concept that has emerged from the architectural field and is now being applied in other arenas. Many of us recognize that architectural features designed to benefit people with disabilities are advantageous to everyone. Lowered water fountains, for example, allow children to get a drink without assistance. Ramps are more convenient when we are pulling luggage or moving equipment. The same phenomenon has occurred with newer technology. Cell phones equipped to send digital messages provide accessibility for people who are deaf, but are also convenient if you are in a meeting or in a noisy environment.
The principles of universal design can be used to guide course organization and development of course materials in a way that is accessible to a broader range of individuals. Many educators have embraced the concept of universal design because the application of it benefits all of the students in their class. Here are a few examples of the students who benefit:
- Students for whom English is a second language.
- Students who have older computer technology or browsers.
- International students.
- Nontraditional students.
- Students with disabilities.
- Students with a learning style that differs from that of his or her instructor's teaching style.