The University of Wisconsin System is a supporter of equal opportunities in education. University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents Policy §96-6, Nondiscrimination on Basis of Disability states, “no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall be denied access to or participation in any program, service, or activity offered by the universities.” It is therefore in everyone’s best interest that all UW System universities advocate for the use of universal design in education.

The concept of accommodation is a “back-end” approach to meeting student needs. It is inefficient and more costly than universal design. Accommodation requires students to self-identify as having a disability and is intolerant of error. It is also inherently inequitable due to the fact that special services require special or 1:1 effort.

The concept of universal design holds that all designs should attempt to optimize usability for everyone, regardless of abilities. Universal design has been used in architecture through concepts such as curb cuts and ramps which have benefited all people. In a classroom, providing handouts in an accessible electronic format is also a method of universal design. Universal design requires no prior knowledge of a disability. Everything is created to be as totally and universally accessible as possible. This includes the physical environment, the information environment and the curricular environment. The hope is that all UW universities will advocate to; 1) develop policies and procedures that support universal design, 2) plan on all levels to consider universal design principles, and 3) identify and support architectural, informational, and curricular experts on each campus to serve as resources in these areas.

ACCESS-ED Project: Universal Design Resources

Conceptual White Paper on Universal Design in Education on UW-System Campuses, November 5, 2004