Universal Design

The Office of Digital Access at Iowa State University promotes an approach that echoes the mission of the university and its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Universal Design framework and methodology rests on the tenets of accessibility, usability and inclusion.  It proposes a shift from a medical model of disability that burdens the user with an understanding of it as a social construct. It provides a proactive platform for a paradigm shift, one that imbues Iowa State University’s digital spaces with its mission to serve all users equally.

usable, universal design, accessible, inclusiveAccording to Burgstahler (2015), Universal Design (UD) in education is defined as “the design of education products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” 

There are a number of leading organizations, researchers and practitioners, who have paved the way for Universal Design as a framework for digital accessibility.  Among others, the University of Washington Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) Center, the University of Wisconsin Trace Center, North Carolina State University’s Center for Universal Design have been trailblazers.  These organizations offer resources, research, and support in identifying best practices in digital access.  These, together with an internal needs assessment, extended literature and a review of practices in institutions of higher education, form the basis for ISU’s Digital Access Roadmap.