Applying Universal Design to Your Work

Please be mindful that proactive accessibility and Universal Design benefits all students, especially during this time when most of us are feeling uncertain about the world, and uncertain of our ability to do well in an online/remote environment. Proactive accessibility goes a long way to ensure everyone has an equitable experience! Here are some ideas that are quick and easy and can help all of your students! Visit the Office of Academic Innovation's Universal Design for Learning webpage for information and support.

Instead of creating an exam, consider whether an alternative assessment is possible.

Not only will this help reduce the burden on instructors (no longer would you have to figure out the D2L exam module), it will likely result in students being better able to demonstrate what they have learned, and it will require far fewer accommodations (also reducing the burden on instructors). 

If you are giving exams in a more traditional way, consider not using Proctorio or other remote proctoring services.

These services require students to have technology they may not have. They monitor students’ environments to ensure they are “secure”, which means that students’ head movements, mouth movements, and even glasses of water in front of them can set off red flags that may stop the exam. When possible, just let students use their knowledge and their textbook or other resources to demonstrate their learning and dedication to your course in an “open book” format.

Record live streamed lectures.

If you do not have a student with “captioned media” as an accommodation in your course, feel free to use Google Hangouts to conduct and record live streamed lectures. However, if you have a student in your class with “captioned media” as an accommodation, please follow the specific instructions sent to you by the DRC as Google Hangouts captioning is not as accurate as it must be for this accommodation.

Provide clear verbal prompts.

Avoid vague prompts such as “What is the answer to this question?” Even if you are writing something down and you think everyone should be able to see it, reading the information aloud will help the class to stay on track with what you’re teaching. Likewise, if you show pictures or slides describe the images. Limit pointing to a specific element or referencing items by saying “this” or “that”. For example, instead of pointing at the board and saying “this divided by that”, say “distance divided by time”.

Facilitate communication and community building.

During live streamed classroom discussions, it is helpful to first ask students to mute their microphones unless they are speaking. Then advise students to “raise their hand” in the chat window to indicate that they would like to speak. You can then call on those students by name or have students self-identify before speaking.

Consider alternatives to textbooks, or choose course materials that students can purchase or access in digital formats.

Many students will be using adaptive technology to engage with online courses, and the option to use digital versions of course materials can help students get smoother, easier access to the content for your course.


If you have questions about the information on this page, please contact the Disability Resource Center.

Email: drc@pdx.edu
Phone: 503-725-4150

Check our home page for hours and Virtual Front Desk information.