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Seven Principles of Universal Design

Principle One: Equitable Use

"The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities."

This principle recommends that the same intuitive and attractive interface be used by all students to access web content. In relation to people with disabilities, this means that students with motor disabilities that limits use of the mouse are able to access the web content solely via the keyboard; that students who are blind can effectively navigate and understand web content utilizing a screen reader; that students with low-vision can use screen magnification software and customize the styling of web content to suit their needs; and that deaf students have synchronized captions for video content and transcripts for audio.

Principle Two: Flexibility In Use

"The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities."

This principle insists that a student be able to use a wide variety of devices to access the content and that use of the content not depend on the student's ability to be perfectly accurate or precise when, for example, hitting a button or control; that the content not require the student to work at a predetermined speed, in other words that the student should be able to set his/her own pace.

In relation to students with disabilities, this means that students should be able to use their Braille displays or specialized literacy or reading and writing software with the web content; that the web resource should allow for any timed response, like a web application time-out; easy to be reset or disabled, and that the interface should not be overly crowded or have difficult to focus buttons or other controls.

Principle Three: Simple and Intuitive

"Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level."

This principle entails that the designer stays consistent in the design, provides clear instructions in simple and concise language, and provides feedback during and after task completion.

Following this principle helps guarantee easier, less stressful access and comprehension for students with learning or reading disabilities. It also accommodates students with limited comprehension of the native language.

Principle Four: Perceptible Information

"The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities."

This principle entails providing multiple modes of presentation of essential information and making sure to differentiate essential information from peripheral or secondary content.

With regards to students with disabilities, providing perceptible information requires not only that multiple modes of presentation be provided, for example supplying video content that has synchronized captions, but also making sure there is adequate visual contrast and sufficient spatial and logical separation between the elements on a page so that functionality is readily and intuitively apparent.

Principle Five: Tolerance for Error

"The design minimizes hazards and the adverse effects of accidental or unintended actions."

A website or application following this principle is fault tolerant. If the student makes a mistake in filling out a form or some other sort of interaction, the website will either quietly correct the mistake or provide a warning. In addition, verifications are required for potentially risky interactivity, for example, modifying or deleting critical data.

Fault tolerance is part of any decent web application. However, it is crucial for students with various cognitive disabilities or who may be prone to accidental interaction with controls due to limited motor acuity. When alerts are triggered, they must get the cursor focus or be readily discoverable so that students using assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnification become aware of them.

Principle Six: Low Physical Effort

"The design can be used efficiently, comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue."

This principle is facilitated by intuitive web page layouts that follow norms and conventions and which ensures that movement through controls is logical and easily accomplished.

For students with disabilities it is particularly important to provide reasonable visual and spatial contrast between the functional areas of web pages and guarantee controls can be easily and effectively navigated using the keyboard alone. For web applications, standardized (as much as possible) keystroke short-cuts should be provided for major functionality. For example, in many cases playing and pausing a video with Control + P or saving work with Control + S requires less effort than searching for, focusing, and clicking a play or save button.

Principle Seven: Size and Space for Approach and Use

"Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility."

For web design, following this principle involves providing sufficient space between web page controls, including site navigation controls, and a large enough target area.

For students with motor disabilities, it can be difficult to keep focused on things such as cascading fly-out menus, which require high proficiency with the mouse. Also, it can be difficult to accurately select buttons that are small and tightly grouped. Web pages should provide logical, visual and interactively distinct navigation and functional controls. Obviously, this helps students with low vision, as well.