What is "Universal Design!"?

Universal design means designing services and resources for people with a broad range of abilities and disabilities. When planning a program or service, think broadly about all of the possible users, and design your Web page, database, or program so that as many people as possible can use it without special accommodations. This saves time and energy (and in many cases, money!) for everyone! Here are the basic principles of Universal design which we have adapted from a list by an organization that works to create accessible software and electronic resources called the Trace Research & Development Center.

What are some examples of universal design principles?

  • equitable use
  • flexible use
  • simple and intuitive use
  • redundancy of information in a variety of formats
  • low physical effort

Why use universal design principles?

  • To ensure that your site is accessible to a diverse audience, use Universal Design Principles. Remember, some visitors cannot see graphics because of visual impairments; cannot hear audio because of hearing impairments; and use adaptive technology with their computer to access the Web.
  • To meet legal requirements of accessibility according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.
  • To prepare for increasing numbers of people with disabilities requesting service.
  • To meet World Wide Web Consortium guidelines on accessibility.

What are some accessible Web design guidelines?

General Page Design:

  • Use a simple, consistent page layout throughout your site.
  • Keep backgrounds simple. Make sure there is enough contrast. How does your page look on a black and white monitor?
  • Design large buttons or graphical links. Large buttons assist visitors to your site that have mobility impairments and limited fine motor control.
  • Use standard HTML - no blink or frame tags.
  • Include a notice about accessibility at your site.

Graphical Features:

  • Include short ALT attributes for logos and graphics.
  • Provide menu alternatives for image maps to ensure that the embedded links are accessible.
  • Include descriptive captions for pictures.
  • Include transcriptions of manuscript images.
  • Caption video and transcribe other audio.
  • Links should be descriptive, and should make sense when read out of context.

Special Features:

  • Use tables and frames sparingly, or consider alternatives.
  • Always test forms and databases. Include an e-mail address and other contact information for those who cannot access them.
  • Some plug-ins include accessibility utilities, however, many are not accessible. Provide the content from these in text-based formats.