Overview of Accessibility and Universal Design


Accessibility is the legalistic twin of Universal Design. Both are concerned with expanding the reach of courses to include all learners. Where Universal Design is about opening your course up to a holistic mindset, accessibility is about compliance with section 508 of 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Where Universal Design gives instructors autonomy to work within a framework, accessibility is a list of prescriptions that courses should abide themselves by. As such, where Universal Design provides multiple pathways and is difficult to assess, it is relatively easy to determine whether or not a course is accessible.

Accessibility checklist

You may use our quick, one-page checklist to see if your course materials are accessible. For a more comprehensive list, please see Penn State’s accessibility website.

Universal Design

For more information on Universal Design, please consult the National Center for Universal Design’s website, which provides many helpful tips and ideas.