Universal Design Resources

Universal design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to both people without disabilities and people with disabilities. The term "Universal design" was coined by the architect Ronald L. Mace to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. It emerged from slightly earlier barrier-free concepts, the broader accessibility movement, and adaptive and assistive technology and also seeks to blend aesthetics into these core considerations. - Wikipedia, Universal design

Making Online Information and Services Accessible

Accessible and assistive technologies help everyone through providing keyboard access, text-to-speech, speech recognition, haptics (vibrational feedback), captioning, customizable user interfaces (UIs), testability, and alternative controls.

  • Flexibility and design alternatives
  • Pages that adapt to a user's environment are more accessible, e.g., fluid-width web pages, use of CSS stylesheets for formatting, viewing on a computer, mobile device, as a printed page.
  • Alternatives for users with visual, hearing, and cognitive disabilities, e.g., larger text, disabling images, and a video that falls back on a slideshow, then audio, then image, and finally text.
  • User control
  • Use of stylesheets allows users to make their own choices about formatting, e.g., font size, with or without link underlines, color contrast, etc.
  • Keyboards and other input alternatives
  • Interactive interfaces rely on user input to trigger actions, presuming the use of a mouse which can be difficult to manipulate.
  • Mouse alternatives: input via a range of keyboards (Braille, ergonomic, touch screen), voice recognition (speech-to-text), access switches for foot, head or other control.
  • Alternative pointing devices
  • Mouse adaptors, ballpoint mouse, haptic device (allows tactile interaction), touch pad, touch screen, trackball.
  • Braille and low vision aids
  • Braille display, keyboard, notetaker, translation device.
  • Large monitors, screen reader (text-to-speech), scanners with optical character recognition (OCR) for conversion to large print, Braille, and speech.

Laws and Regulations

Web Accessibility Standards

General Resources on Universal Design

Assistive Technology

  • AbleData (Silver Spring, MD). "Provides objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the United States [to] serve the nation's disability, rehabilitation, and senior communities."
  • U.S. Administration on Aging. Assistive technology.
  • Alliance for Technology Access (Petaluma, CA). "A growing national network of technology resource centers, organizations, individuals, and companies [for] the empowerment of people with disabilities ... through public education, information and referral, capacity building in community organizations and advocacy/policy efforts." - Healthfinder.gov.
  • Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Assistive technology resources. Video demonstrations of Openbook, SAL2 (talking tactile tablet), interactive boards, laptops and displays, and Braille Notetaker.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access. Assistivetech.net: National Public Website on Assistive Technology. Mission: "to provide access to information on AT devices and services as well as other community resources for people with disabilities and the general public."
  • IDEAL Group Portable Assistive Technology Software - Mission: “to make portable, open source (and other low/no-cost-to-the-user), assistive technology software available to anyone wishing or needing to use it.”
  • Virginia Dept. of Education, Training and Technical Assistance Center. (2010, May 10). Portable applications provide low-cost assistive technology alternatives. Innovations and Perspectives.

Computer OS, Browsers, and More

Video Demonstrations

Minnesota Accessibility Services and Resources

  • EquipALife (formerly Assistive Technology of Minnesota) is a nonprofit organization that provides a statewide, individual consumer-focused system of assistive technology for Minnesotans of all ages with disabilities. Programs include the Micro Loan Program of low-interest loans to acquire assistive technology; Telework Program of low-Interest loans to develop, expand or maintain businesses operated from the home; Assistive Technology Outreach Program of consultation for home and workplace modification; and the AgrAbility Project that assists farmers with disabilities and their families with assistive technology and farm modifications. Assistive Technology and Modifications Toolkit (PDF) lists products, services and organizations.
  • Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology. Accessibility Standards and Accessibility Initiative (2009). "The goal of the Accessibility Standard is to improve the accessibility and usability of information technology products and services for all government end-users in the State of Minnesota. This standard is in response to the accessible technology bill that was signed into law on May 22, 2009, that requires the State to adopt Section 508 standards and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) for developing and maintaining accessible statewide information and telecommunications technology systems and services."
  • Minnesota Department of Administration. Minnesota STAR Program. "STAR's mission is to help all Minnesotans with disabilities gain access to and acquire the assistive technology they need to live, learn, work and play ... federally funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration in accordance with the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended (P.L. 108-364)." STAR provides device demonstrations, device loans, device exchanges, and assistive technology reutilization. Directory of Funding and Assistive Technology Resources in Minnesota - Seventh Edition (2008-2009).
  • Minnesota State Council On Disability MSCOD) "is an agency that collaborates, advocates, advises and provides information to expand opportunities, increase the quality of life and empower all persons with disabilities. Services are provided to individuals with disabilities and their families, the Governor and Legislature, government and private agencies, employers and the general public." Services include review of disability issues, programs and policies; promote coordinated, collaborative, interagency efforts; provide information and referral regarding disability issues, services and policies; collect, conduct and make disability related research and statistics available; and advocate for policies and programs that promote the quality of life for people with disabilities. Recent report: Assistive technology in Minnesota: 2008 status report.
  • PACER Center. "The mission of PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) is to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families. Founded in 1977, PACER is staffed primarily by parents of children with disabilities and works in coalition with 18 disability organizations." Its Simon Technology Center has a lending library of assistive technology. PACER Center provides information, workshops, webinars, and other resources such as Understanding Assistive Technology (YouTube, 2:32) and Understand Assistive Technology Loan Libraries (YouTube, 3:25).
  • VSA Minnesota, The State Organization on Arts and Disability. "VSA Minnesota's mission is to create a community where people with disabilities can learn through, participate in and access the arts ... an affiliate of VSA in Washington D.C." Web access information.
  • Infoeyes. "InfoEyes is a question and answer service for people with a visual impairment or other print limitation." Multi-state including Minnesota.
  • Minnesota Historical Society. (Dec. 2010). Web Content Accessibility White Paper. "This white paper summarizes Internet accessibility standards and regulations that apply to state government entities, discusses the rationale for making improvements, and identifies resources that address ways to implement accessible web design."

Minnesota Accessibility Statements and Policies