Universal Design for inclusive lectures and presentations

Universal design, as adopted by education researchers McGuire, Scott, and Shaw [1], is known as Universal Design for Instruction (UDI), and is advocated as "an approach to teaching that consists of the proactive design and use of inclusive instructional strategies that benefit a broad range of learners, including students with disabilities." [2] UDI has direct relevance for individuals who are working to develop inclusive presentations as it provides the necessary tools for the successful application of universal design in the classroom or lab.

Principles of Universal Design for Instruction

  1. Equitable use: the design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
    • Curricular examples: give take-home tests/exams and post copies of notes on an accessible website.
    • Technological example: develop accessible websites that incorporate ALT tags on all graphic images.
  2. Flexible in use: the design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
    • Curricular example: provide options for preparing a project individually or working in a group.
    • Technological example: supply electronic files that can be read online (with or without screen reading technology) or printed out in text, braille, or large print.
  3. Simple, intuitive use: use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, or language skills.
    • Curricular example: use a simple course syllabus with a clear layout and font and minimal jargon.
  4. Perceptible information: the design communicates necessary information effectively, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
    • Curricular example: design class presentations to supplement lectures, and use PowerPoint slides to deliver information bi-modally.
    • Technological example: use computer operating systems that allow for customization based on preferences for look, feel, and use.
  5. Tolerance for error: the design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
    • Curricular example: ensure students have the opportunity to submit draft papers for feedback, prior to completing their final papers.
    • Technological example: use the undo or backspace keys in computer applications.
  6. Low physical effort: the design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with minimal fatigue.
    • Curricular example: provide students with custom course materials in three-ring binders so that sections of text, rather than the complete, heavy book, can be brought to class.
    • Technological example: use split keyboards, track balls, and copy/paste computer application functions. [3]
  7. Size and space for approach and use: the design provides appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.
    • Curricular example: use an overhead projector or PowerPoint slides to avoid talking to the blackboard.
    • Technological example: use split keyboards, track balls, and copy/paste computer application functions.
  8. A community of learners: the instructional environment promotes interaction and communication among students and between students and faculty members.
  9. Instructional climate: instruction is designed to be welcoming and inclusive.  High expectations are espoused for all students.

How Can Universal Design for Instruction Improve My Presentation?

In almost all venues, students today are made up of an increasingly diverse population.  People from varying cultural backgrounds and communities with different learning styles, languages, and disabilities do not receive, process, or remember information in the same way.  As a result, faculty members are challenged to move beyond their traditional presentation styles and incorporate strategies that are more diverse, flexible, and accessible – more universal – in order to be effective.

Since a universal design approach never advocates compromising essential information, effective planning must begin with content.  The DRC encourages faculty members to consider:

  1. What are the essentials components of my presentation, speech, or lecture?
    • What do I want my students to know?
    • What lasting impact do I want to have?
  2. How can I present this information without compromising the essential components identified and in the most inclusive way possible?
    • What challenges to inclusion might my presentation style create?
    • How can I plan my presentation to provide meaningful access to all members of my audience and minimize the need for individual academic accommodations?

While no presentation style is entirely barrier-free, effective speakers consider the strengths and challenges that each format presents and implement strategies that maximize flexibility, impact, and access while minimizing potential barriers. [4]

[1] McGuire, J.M., Scott, S.S. & Shaw, S.F. "Universal design for Instruction: the paradigm, its principles, and products for enhancing instructional access," Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 17 (1), 10-20: 2003.

[2] Reprinted by permission from Universal Design for Inclusive Lectures and Presentations (AHEAD).

[3] Reprinted by permission from Universal Design in Higher Education (AHEAD).

[4] Reprinted by permission from Universal Design for Inclusive Lectures and Presentations (AHEAD).

Universal Design


Last reviewed shim1/19/2015 11:35:21 AM