Universal Design for Instruction

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Universal Design for Instruction is an instructional design model that focuses on accessibility.

According to “Universal Design began to be considered in the 1950s in Europe, Japan, and the United States and focuses on removing physical and environmental barriers. [...] In the 1970s, the concept of UD evolved from one of removing physical barriers to people with disabilities to integration of all people within all environments.” (Roberts et al, 2010:6)

According to Roberts et al, (2010), Universal design (UD) promotes accessibility and usability for as many people as possible. “In the past decade, educators have expanded UD principles to include educational access. Shaw, Scott, and McGuire published nine principles of UD for instruction (UDI). These nine principles applied the seven UD principles of Connell et al. (1997) to postsecondary education instruction and added two additional principles - Principle 8: A community of learners, and Principle 9: Instructional climate.” (p. 6)

  1. Equitable use: Accessing course information,such as syllabi, in a variety formats, including print, disk, and online.
  2. Flexibility in use: Varying instructional methods, including lecture, discussion, and individual and group activities.
  3. Simple and intuitive: Clearly describing course expectations for grading, in different formats, for example narrative and rubrics.
  4. Perceptible information: Using videos that include subtitles, or captioning, for those who may not hear, for whom English is not a first language, or for those who have trouble processing verbal information.
  5. Tolerance for error: Providing ongoing and continual feedback on coursework rather than at specified interim periods, such as mid-term or final exams.
  6. Low physical effort: Providing lecture notes, so students who have difficulty taking notes do not need to take notes.
  7. Size and space for approach and use: Making seating easily accessible, if possible, so everyone can see each other and communicate with one another directly. Circular seating may address this principle.
  8. Community of learners: Creating a variety of learning settings, for example, use of e-mail groups, social networking sites, or chat rooms.
  9. Instructional climate: Including a statement in the syllabus indicating the desire to meet the instructional needs of all students and for students to convey their needs to the instructor.

(Roberts et al, 2010:6-7).


Schelly et al. (2010) used the following instrument to measure student perceptions of faculty implementation:

Student survey items using five response items: Strongly agree, agree, neutral or undecided, disagree, strongly disagree

1. The instructor presents information in multiple formats (e.g., lecture, text, graphics, audio, video).
2. The instructor’s expectations are consistent with the learning objectives stated on the course syllabus or on the study guides.
3. During lecture, the instructor ties the most important points to the larger objectives of the course.
4. The instructor often speaks while facing the board/screen or looking down at his/her notes, laptop, or overhead transparency.
5. The instructor begins each lecture with an outline of what will be covered.
6. The instructor summarizes key points throughout the lecture.
7. The course syllabus clearly describes the content and expectations of this course, specifically or in broad terms.
8. The instructor provides electronic equivalents (e.g., HTML, Word, PDF) of all paper handouts.
9. Required reading assignments (other than the textbook) are available online.
10. I am able to grasp the key points from instructional videos for this class.
11. The instructor uses instructional technologies (e.g., clickers, RamCT) to enhance learning.
12. Course materials (other than the textbook) are accessible, clearly organized, and easy to use.
13. Students in this course are allowed to express their comprehension of material in ways besides traditional tests and exams (e.g., written essays, projects, portfolios).
14. I receive prompt and instructive feedback on all assignments.
15. This course employs technology to facilitate communication among students and between students and the instructor.
16. Assignments for this course can be submitted electronically.
17. In this course I feel interested and motivated to learn.
18. I feel challenged with meaningful assignments.
19. The instructor expresses enthusiasm for the topics covered in class.
20. The instructor offers contact with students outside of class time in flexible formats (e.g., face-to-face, email, online chat, telephone)
21. The instructor explains the real-world importance of the topics taught in this course.
22. The instructor creates a class climate in which student diversity is respected.
23. The instructor is highly approachable and available to students.
24. This course supplements lecture and reading assignments with visual aids (e.g., charts, diagrams, interactive simulations).

In addition:

25. What grade to you think you will get in this course?
(Answer “A” for an A, “B” for a B, etc. If you think you will receive an F, answer “E.”)
26. I am a student with a disability (for example, a learning disability, ADHD, a physical disability):
True (mark the “A” bubble), False (mark the “B” bubble)
27. If so, I have contacted the Resources for Disabled Students office (RDS) to request accommodation services:
True (mark the “A” bubble), False (mark the “B” bubble)


  • Roberts, Kelly D., Hye Jin Park, Steven Brown, Bryan Cook (2010). Universal Design for Instruction in Postsecondary Education: A Systematic Review of Empirically Based Articles, Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability 24, 5-15
  • Schelly, Catherine L.; Patricia L. Davies & Craig L. Spooner (2010), Student Perceptions of Faculty Implementation of Universal Design for Learning, Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability 24, 17-30.
  • Scott, S., McGuire, J., & Shaw, S. (2003). Universal design for instruction: A new paradigm for adult instruction in postsecondary education. Remedial and Special Education, 24, 369-379.