What is Universal Design of Instruction?

October 7, 2014

Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) is an approach to teaching that consists of a proactive design and use of inclusive instructional strategies that benefit a broad range of learners including students with disabilities.

The seven principles of UDI provide a framework for faculty to use when designing or revising instruction to be responsive to diverse student learners and to minimize the need for "special" accommodations and retrofitted changes to the learning environment. UDI operates on the premise that the planning and delivery of instruction as well as the evaluation of learning can incorporate inclusive attributes that embrace diversity in learners without compromising academic standards.

Seven Principles of UDI

  1. Equitable Use. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. For example, a website that is designed so that it is accessible to everyone, including students who are blind and using text-to-speech software, 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 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 being employed is when multimedia projected in a noisy academic conference exhibit includes 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 educational software that provides guidance when the student makes an inappropriate selection.
  6. Low Physical Effort. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue. 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.

Information about UDI is from the University of Washington DO-IT program.

The guidelines are from The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina University.

Thanks to Vannee Cao-Nguyen, Ed.D., Director of the UWF Student Disability Resource Center for this teaching tip.

Updated: 10/08/14 tjf

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