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Universal Design: Seven Principles That You Can Follow

The Seven Principles of Universal Design Developed by NC State University’s Center for Universal Design and Examples of How They Might Be Applied to Instruction

Use these guidelines and examples to help you incorporate Universal Design principles* into your work at the College:

  1. Equitable use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. 


  • Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.

  • Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.

  • Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.

  • Make the design appealing to all users.

Example: A professor's website is designed so that it is accessible to everyone, including students who are blind and use text-to-speech software.

  1. Flexibility in use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. 


  • Provide choice in methods of use.

  • Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use.

  • Facilitate the user’s accuracy and precision.

  • Provide adaptability to the user’s pace.

Example: A museum, visited as a field trip for a course, allows each student to choose to read or listen to a description of the contents of display cases.

  1. Simple and intuitive: Use of the design is easy to understand regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. 


  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.

  • Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.

  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.

  • Arrange information consistent with its importance.

  • Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.

Example: Control buttons on science equipment are labeled with text and symbols that are simple and intuitive to understand.

  1. Perceptible information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities. 


  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.

  • Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.

  • Maximize “legibility” of essential information.

  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).

  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations. 

Example: A video presentation projected in a course includes captions.

  1. Tolerance for error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. 


  • Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.

  • Provide warnings of hazards and errors.

  • Provide fail safe features.

  • Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

Example: Educational software provides guidance and/or background information when the student makes an inappropriate response.

  1. Low physical effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. 


  • Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.

  • Use reasonable operating forces.

  • Minimize repetitive actions.

  • Minimize sustained physical effort. 

Example: Doors to a lecture hall open automatically for people with a wide variety of physical characteristics.

  1. Size and space for approach and use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body, size, posture, or mobility. 


  • Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.

  • Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.

  • Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.

  • Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance. 

Example: A flexible science lab work area has adequate workspace for students who are left- and right-handed and for those who need to work from a standing or seated position (Burgstahler, 2015, p. 2).

* References

Burgstahler, S. (2015). Universal design of instruction (UDI): Definitions, principles, guidelines, and examples. Seattle, University of Washington. Retrieved from
Center for universal design. (n.d.). College of Design. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from


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