Universal Design in Education: Principles and Applications

This article provides an overview of Universal Design in Education and offers links to additional resources.

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
University of Washington
Publication Year
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While courses, technology, and student services are typically designed for the narrow range of characteristics of the average student, the practice of universal design in education (UDE) considers people with a wide range of characteristics in the design of all educational products and environments. UDE goes beyond accessible design for people with disabilities to make all aspects of the educational experience more inclusive for students, parents, staff, instructors, administrators, and visitors with a great variety of characteristics. These characteristics include those related to gender, race and ethnicity, age, stature, disability, and learning style. Originally applied in the field of architecture and later to commercial products and information technology, UDE applications are relatively new. UDE provides a philosophical framework for the design of a broad range of educational products and environments.

What the experts say

Universal design concerns access and participation for the range of clients who may wish to participate in adult education.  It applies to the curriculums and services offered in adult education, enrollment and other program operations, physical environment, materials, instructional practices, and interpersonal interactions.  Thus, it is relevant to all aspects of adult education programs.  This resource makes clear what UD is and why it should be engaged, it is an informative introductory reading and can be especially useful to educators.  It also is helpful for those who wrongly believe UD is limited to physical access or technology.