Universal Design

Universal Design Best Practices


As the number of individuals being diagnosed with learning disabilities has increased, so have the understanding and utilization of academic and technological strategies for accommodation. There are a number of things instructors can do while planning a course to make it more accessible to all students, including those with learning disabilities. Proactively considering these strategies is part of a process called universal design (UD). UD offers the following suggestions:

  • Include a statement in your syllabus inviting students to talk with you and the disability services office about disability-related issues.

Services for Students with Disabilities and/or Medical Conditions

Any student needing classroom or exam accommodations due to the impact of a disability or medical condition is welcome to register for services with the Disability Services in the Center for Academic Enrichment (CAE). The office will work with the student to arrange appropriate accommodations and write an Accommodation Letter which is distributed to applicable instructors. Students who use accommodations are welcome to contact the instructor privately and in a timely manner to discuss the most effective methods to implement the approved accommodations. If the student is uncomfortable contacting the professor about their accommodations, the professor may contact Disability Services for guidance. The CAE office is located in Preus Library, Room 108, and can be reached at 387.1270.

  • Point out campus resources available to all students such as tutoring centers, study skills labs, counseling centers, and computer labs.
  • Clearly and early in a course define course requirements, announce the dates of exams, and tell students when assignments are due. Avoid last-minute readings or additional assignments and provide advance notice of changes in assignments and due dates.
  • Provide printed materials early to allow students sufficient time to read and comprehend the material. Many students with learning disabilities find it beneficial to use software that can read the textbook and other text-based materials aloud. In order for them to take advantage of this technology, the printed text must first be converted into an electronic file. This process can be time-consuming.
  • Use multi-modal methods to present classroom material, in order to address a variety of learning styles and strengths (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic). Provide important information in both oral and written formats.
  • When teaching a lesson, state objectives, review previous lessons, and summarize periodically.
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Read aloud what you write on the board or present on an overhead visual.
  • Keep instructions brief and uncomplicated. Repeat them word-for-word.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Use captioned videos and know how to turn on the captioning feature. Although captioned videos are typically used for students who are deaf, they also help some students with learning disabilities and those for whom English is a second language, by ensuring content is presented visually and audibly. Give all students an opportunity to view a video multiple times (e.g., by making it available in a library or learning center, or on a website).
  • Provide study guides or review sheets.
  • Have multiple methods for course assessment, such as allowing students to take an exam or writing a paper; work alone or in a group; or deliver an oral, written, or videotaped project presentation.
  • Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments and assessments.
  • Design distance learning courses with accessibility in mind. 



  • U.S. Department of Education