Universal Design

Universal Design helps instructors implement their courses to be usable by all students, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaption or accommodation. Instructors using universal design increase usability, engagement, and access to content for everyone. Therefore, the goal of Universal Design is for instructors to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning and give all students equal opportunities for success.

Accessible Course Materials

Instructors have the primary and ultimate responsibility to ensure access to their course materials by every student in every course they teach. The information below will help instructors make intentional design and development decisions. For specific questions or support creating accessible course materials, contact your instructional design partner. Once you have designed and incorporated access to course materials for all students, TWU Disability Services (DSS) will work with you to provide any accommodation needed by individual students.

The Universal Design Toolkit

The Universal Design Toolkit is a set of simple principles to apply to your course materials that allows instructors to provide content that works for everyone. There are practices to follow for Documents and Presentations; Audio and Video; and Utilities and Tools.

Internal Universal Design Review

Maroon circle with Universal Design Reviewed CD3 inside

Research shows that instructors who have designed their courses using the principles of universal design greatly improve the learning process of their content for all learners. If you are interested in taking the next step in inclusive teaching, the Center for Development, Design, and Delivery now offers an Internal Universal Design Review that examines courses using the principles of a research-based framework that addresses the diverse needs of all learners. Reviews identify accessibility issues in online course content and offer instructors potential ways to improve the accessibility of their course materials using the Universal Design Toolkit.

The Internal Universal Design Review will take approximately 4 to 6 weeks. Successful completion will improve access to your course content for all students. Learn more and begin your Internal Universal Design Review.

Access and Accommodation

Access vs. Accommodation infographic to explain the difference between the two

Access signifies the degree that instructional materials are usable by as many people as possible, regardless of disability or assistive technology in your course. Access is the responsibility of instructors creating and teaching courses.

Accommodation is not the same as access. Accommodation means that some aspects of the instructional materials have to be adapted or modified to meet the needs of a specific individual. Accommodation is provided by the Disability Services for Students Office.

  • Access is not a discrete feature of an application. It is a process made up of many intentional design and development decisions, based on real-world practice, institutional policy, public standards, and awareness of the diversity of user experience. For example, an access strategy in a course would include closed captions for all videos providing both audio and text for learning. This helps a student with hearing loss who benefits by reading the text. In addition, all students benefit from both the audio and text being available allowing for multiple ways to comprehend the material. 
  • Accommodation are patches or fixes, applied retroactively to overcome what is not provided by access alone. For example, if an instructor distributes a print document in class, a low-vision student will not be able to read that document. In this case, accommodation would require the instructor or student to work with DSS to provide software that can read the document for the student.

Access and accommodation work together to provide an equitable experience for all students interacting with instructional materials in your courses.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II, gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities that guarantees equal opportunity of employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

The Rehabilitation Act Section 504 and Section 508 expand the application of the ADA to include all state, local, and federal government entities, including colleges and universities, both public and private. Section 504 clearly states that any organization which receives federal subsidies must accommodate people with disabilities; This includes making instructional course materials accessible, such as documents, images, and videos.

To learn more about protecting students with disabilities please visit the Disability Services for Students Office.

Page last updated 3:02 PM, September 18, 2023