Universal Design for Learning

In 2005, the Ontario Government passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which requires that Ontario be an accessible province by 2025. To help public, private and not-for-profit organizations identify, prevent and remove barriers to accessibility, the AODA sets out specific accessibility standards in five areas:

  1. Customer Service
  2. Information and Communications
  3. Employment
  4. Transportation
  5. Built Environment

As set forth in the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Regulation 191/11, the Accessibility Plan has been prepared to address issues and barriers preventing persons with disabilities from participating fully in the Niagara College Community. This is a multi-year Plan that outlines how we intend to identify, prevent and remove barriers to accessibility, as well as our strategy in meeting the various requirements under the AODA legislation. It will also provide a framework for the next steps in our effort to create an inclusive environment.

NC Accessibility Resources – Information and Communications

In order to help educators meet these requirements, the following resources help in creating material, using media and teaching in ways that meet the Ontario standards for accessibility. Specifically, it contains checklists and step-by-step instructions on creating accessible media (Microsoft Office and pdf documents, videos and websites) as well as information on teaching students with various abilities.

Creating Accessible Documents
  • Accessible Digital Office Document (ADOD) Project - This site can help you create accessible office documents and choose accessible office applications.
  • Office 2010: Accessibility Tutorials
    Find information and quick reference guides on making your Office 2010 applications accessible in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access and more.
  • Accessibility in Office 2010 - Video
    In this tutorial you will learn about two major features of Microsoft Office 2010, the accessibility checker, and alternative text for objects.
Checklist - Print Documents:
  • Use large text size - between 12 and 18 points
  • Use a sans serif font - such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana
  • Make sure that all information conveyed with colour can also be conveyed without
  • Use appropriate colour contrast
  • If you document is text heavy, consider separating it in columns
  • Don't crowd your text - use appropriate letter spacing
  • Using italics or upper-case letters for emphasis is not recommended
  • Space between the lines should be aat least 25-30% of the point size
  • se a matte/non-glossy finish
Creating Accessible Presentations

Creating Accessible PowerPoint 2010 Presentations

When teaching or facilitating a workshop, you may have to accommodate people with visual, hearing, psychiatric, learning speech and mobility impairments. it is therefore very important to assure that any material used in the teaching session be accessible, to make sure that everyone can participate equally in the session, whether someone chooses to disclose their disability or not. this checklist allows you to make sure that your presentation material meets accessibility standards.

Checklist - Slideshow Presentations:
  • Use high contrast between foreground and background
  • Use a minimum of 16 point font
  • Use a sans serif font - such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana
  • Have a plain background - avoid busy patterns
  • Avoid cluttered screens (too ma ny images or words)Videos
  • Video and audio material must be captioned
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Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational concept designed to make the learning environment inclusive to all learners. It is an example of an effective framework for accessible education which;

  • Emphasizes flexible curriculum and teaching materials to differentiate instruction;
  • Uses multiple modes of engaging students, presenting content and assessing comprehension; and
  • Uses evolving communication technology to maximize learning opportunities for all students.

Combining seven principles, Universal Design for Learning can be applied when teaching those students who have disabilities. Applying this concept assures that everyone is given the same opportunities to maximize their learning experience. The seven principles of universal design are:

  • Equitable Use
  • Flexibility in Use
  • Simple and Intuitive
  • Perceptible Information
  • Tolerance for Error
  • Low Physical Effort
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use

When preparing lessons and material, instructors can consider the principles of universal design to make sure they are addressing the needs of all their students - those with disabilities and those of varying backgrounds can benefit from an altered educational plan. With this in mind, how can an educator apply principles of Universal Design for Learning to the classroom? Here are some examples.

Principles Examples
  1. Be accessible and fair. Provide accessibility-checked course website; supply lecture outlines; use variety of media to provide information.
  2. Provide flexibility in use, participation and presentation. Use verbal, text, images, audio; use discussion or problem-solving exercises; post exercises and quizzes online.
  3. Be straightforward and consistent. Use headings consistently; develop concept maps for complex topics, use plain language.
  4. Be explicitly presented and readily perceived. Ensure PowerPoint materials are easy to read; provide outlines and summaries; consider room conditions.
  5. Provide a supportive learning environment. Expect students to have varying levels of skills; offer collaborative learning opportunities; review drafts of assignments.
  6. Minimize unnecessary physical effort or requirements. Minimize clicking, scrolling, etc. on websites; consider lighting, physical space; have students work in pairs; provide remote access to reading material.
  7. Ensure learning spaces fit students’ needs and instructional materials. Match exercises to course technology; provide videotapes for review; ensure space accommodates mobility and communication needs.
National Center on Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • UDL Guidelines - coming soon.

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