Universal Design

The principle of universal design originated in architecture from the idea that a curb cut or ramp may have been designed to assist a small group of individuals with a specific need, such as wheelchair users, but are actually beneficial to the broader population such as children on bicycles or parents with strollers. The same is true in online courses. If a student in an online course has special accommodations, the student and instructor will work together with Disability Services to ensure that course materials meet the student’s needs. This may include transcription of audio content or conversion of written materials to MP3. However, just like a ramp is useful to bicyclists, closed captioning helps English language learners and those who prefer to read rather than listen to lecture content. 

Below are resources on building Universal Design into your course. For additional assistance contact If you have a student who requires specific accommodations, please contact Disability Services

General information

  • Universal design presentations: handouts from presentations on Universal Design and accessibility by UMass CPE staff. 
  • Ten Simple Steps Toward Universal Design of Online Courses: Implementing the principles of universal design in online learning means anticipating the diversity of students that may enroll in your course and planning accordingly. These ten key elements will greatly enhance the accessibility and usability of your course for students with and without disabilities.
  • 10 Tips for Creating Accessible Online Course Content: a webinar presented by Janet Sylvia (Web Accessibility Trainer), and hosted by 3PlayMedia (captioning provider) and the Online Learning Consortium. View the webinar recording below, or access the link for the full transcript, recording and slides. 

Specific information for your course


Navigating Course Pages in Blackboard Learn using Window-Eyes (screen reader).


Alt Text: Two Key Elements for making your PowerPoint Accessible