Accessibility and Universal Design Resource Guide

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Accessibility and Universal Design 
in Inclusive Teaching

The goal of this resource is to support instructors in learning more about what the role of accessibility and universal design is in inclusive teaching, why considering these components of inclusive teaching is crucial for our many disabled and/or neurodivergent students, and how specific pedagogies can create more access and inclusion and remove barriers.

Defining Accessibility, Universal Design, and Inclusive

Accessibility is used here to indicate whether disabled students are able to access the same information and engage in the same learning experiences as their currently non-disabled peers (Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, 2013). It is also commonly used as a legal term (for example, in the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA), or to indicate standards for built environments (physical or digital).

Universal Design here means both considering a wider range of people who will likely engage with what we are making as we design it (as opposed to relying exclusively on individual accommodations) and a particular approach called Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which offers a set of principles and approaches that can help us ensure all students are able to engage with the learning we are offering.

Inclusive teaching is one of the four standards of quality teaching at UO, and is "instruction designed to ensure every student can participate fully and that their presence and participation is valued" and that "the content of the course reflects the diversity of the field's practitioners and the questions and knowledge they bring" (disability is a valuable part of this diversity). Learn more on the Introduction to Inclusive Teaching page

In addition, we understand disability as the intersection between two things: a condition that "substantially limits one or more major life activities" (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the social and "environmental factors including negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social support”​ (World Health Organization). Understanding disability as partly situational--that a student may be disabled in one environment but not in another--is key to why and how we think about accessibility in our courses. 

Please note that we use a mix of "identity-first" and "person first" language throughout these pages; learn more about disability and language on the APA's "Disability" webpage.

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Relevance for Students and Learning

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Many UO students have disabilities

We know that there is significant diversity and variability in students' identities, experiences, and abilities and disabilities--this is a collective strength, and we can proactively plan it in teaching. But to do that, it helps to know more about disability in the UO student body. For example, it might help to know that:

  • 46.5% of incoming undergraduates identify as having one or more disabilities (Clark, 2023)
  • The majority of disabilities UO students have are non-apparent (i.e. not visible or easily perceptible) (Clark, 2023)
  • Most students with disabilities do not disclose on campus or seek accommodations; this implies that the number of disabled students at UO may be significantly larger those with formal accommodations (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022)
  • 14% of undergraduates and 8% of graduate students have AEC accommodations (as of 2023)
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Accessibility-related barriers have significant negative impacts

At UO, in comparison with their non-disabled peers, disabled students:

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Removing barriers is possible and benefits us all

When we consider accessibility and universal design as part of inclusive teaching:

  • We support success for all students, including those who have disabilities and/or are neurodivergent, English language learners, first generation students,and others.
  • We save ourselves significant time. Redesigning or "retrofitting" almost always takes more time than considering it to begin with.
  • We do it one action at a time, focusing on what we can do (instead of getting overwhelmed by it all at once or focusing on what we can't control).

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Pedagogies and Practices

For many educators, the work of increasing accessibility is doable when we start with just one practice (making a document accessible, or sharing the purpose of a class discussion it begins), as opposed to feeling like we must make radical change right away.

The suite of pedagogies and practices below overlap and intersect. Begin by exploring any pedagogy/practice that appeals to you; there is no one right place to start. Want to consult about what might best fit your teaching context, time, or goal? Contact us--we'd love to connect. 

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This page provides an overview of what Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is as a pedagogical framework, information on why instructors may want to use UDL in their teaching and course design, guidance around how to apply the guidelines of UDL, and resources to continue that work.
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This page offers definitions and context for what trauma-informed pedagogies and their principles are, and why considering the effects of trauma and pedagogies responsive to them might be useful.
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This resource offers a brief refresher on flexibility-related requirements for UO instructors, guidance on identifying what flexibility might work for your courses, and a decision tree of instructor-tested, "how-to" options.
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This page highlights important UO resources, such as How-To Guides, asynchronous trainings adapted by and for UO faculty, and communities of practice that can help us create digitally accessible content.
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This page offers some of the discussion components, principles, and resources instructors may wish to use to help foster more meaningful learning and universal engagement. 
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This supplementary page highlights AEC guidance to three commonly posed questions. Questions are addressed through text, video, and "decision tree" images (in response to faculty requests)

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UO Resources

Quick Links:

Explore ongoing events and opportunities

Participate in the Accessibility Ally Program! AEC’s Accessibility Ally program is an opportunity for interested faculty and staff to increase awareness related to disability and develop skills and knowledge to act as an ally for accessibility and inclusion of students with disabilities. While the full program has live components, the asynchronous modules are always available in MyTrack.

Request a workshop for your unit: We continue to provide workshops to individual units, tailored to their needs and interests, and consult and collaborate with campus partners like AEC, Counseling Services, Digital Accessibility, and others to identify how we can best collectively meet instructor and students needs. Email for more information.

Join recurrent groups that fit your interests, such as:

  • Designing for Accessibility: Coffee & Co-working, third Tuesday of each month. This informal, supportive co-working session is for instructors and staff looking to expand accessibility in their courses and/or other work contexts!
  • Neurodivergent Instructors & Staff Affinity Group Meetings, first Tuesday of each month. This affinity-group is a space for neurodivergent instructors and staff (and those who hold identities under this umbrella term, like ADHD, dyslexia, Autism, bipolar, etc.) to connect in ways that feel positive, and to share resources, questions, interests and community.

Discover resources from past events

You can find some of our past workshops and corresponding materials on the following pages:

You may notice that the digital accessibility of these items ranges (for example, some videos are carefully edited with chapters and accurate captions, and some are not yet). Offering these workshops was a part of our own collective learning processes; now that we know better, we can do better! We will continue to remediate inaccessible content; if you encounter an accessibility barrier in a particular resource, you can email us at and we will prioritize remediating that content. 

Read UO reports about accessibility, inclusion, and disability

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This resource was shaped by conversations with numerous student support units, conversations with and scholarship of UO faculty and GEs (particularly disabled faculty and GEs), and by data we have on experiences of UO students. 

This resource and the pages within it were written by Laurel Bastian. The resource is openly licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Recommended citation for this resource: Bastian, L. (2023). Accessibility and Universal Design in Inclusive Teaching. Teaching and Innovation.