Making Your Class Accessible
Designing any product or environment involves the consideration of many
factors including aesthetics, engineering options, environmental issues,
safety concerns, and cost.
Often the design is created for the "average" user. In contrast universal design
is "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to
the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized
Universal design is an approach to the designed products and environments,
including instruction, that takes into consideration the the variety of
abilities, disabilities, racial/ethnic backgrounds, reading abilities, ages,
and other characteristics of the student body.
Following are the principles of universal design along with an example in
academic programs for each.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
Another Important aspect ensuring your class is accessible is COMMUNICATION.
Faculty are not expected to evaluate a student's disability nor decide
upon appropriate accommodations. Nonetheless, it is important for faculty to
make known their willingness to provide reasonable accommodations. A
statement similar to the following should be included on syllabi or presented
orally on the first day of class:
"If you have a disability and wish to discuss accommodations,
please contact me as soon as possible."
The provision of class syllabi prior to the beginning of the semester is helpful
to some students with disabilities. Students with visual, learning, or
other disabilities may require taping of reading materials. Since this is a
time consuming process, extended preparation time is required. According to
ADA regulations, a good faith effort must be made to provide all students with
class material at the same time.