UDL: Universal Design…for Libraries?

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This week I was at the Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion, and Disability annual conference conference at the Ohio State University and was reminded again about the principles of Universal Design. The presentation was "Universal Design: Ensuring Access to All Learners" by Maria Morin from Project Enhance at the University of Texas -- Pan American. Although she talked about Universal Design for Learning (encompassing assessments, instructional delivery and resource presentation), there was a point in her presentation that I snapped to Universal Design for Libraries.

Here were the two slides:

Universal Design for Learning is about Options!

  • Representation refers to how one can design and deliver information to the class.
  • Engagement refers to how students participate in class.
  • Expression refers to how one can ask students to demonstrate what they have learned.


  • Multiple ways of REPRESENTATION to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge.
  • Multiple ways of EXPRESSION provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know.
  • Multiple ways of ENGAGEMENT to tap into learners' interest, challenging them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.

Are there ways that we can provide options for multiple ways of representation, expression and engagement in the services we provide? A quick Google search for Universal Design for Libraries has some interesting possibilities, including a checklist from the University of Washington DO-IT office and an announcement about an ALA ASCLA Midwinter 2010 institute. Is anyone else thinking about this?

The Seven Principles of Universal Design, as offered in a handy bookmark from the presentation by the Project Enhance folks, are:

  1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and Intuitive: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

As we design information systems, certainly the first five of these seven apply to us. And, as is the hallmark of Universal Design, are useful for not only people with disabilities but for everyone one in general.

The text was modified to update a link from http://ada.osu.edu/conferences/2010Conf/main10.html to http://ada.osu.edu/conferences/past/2010Program.html on November 16th, 2012.