This page is a great resource for using universal design. Check out some tips and resources to better help you create accessible designs. If you have any questions or recommendations for additional topics, please reach out to

What is Universal Design?

As defined by the National Disability Authority, Universal Design is “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” The term “environment” doesn’t just refer to physical environments, but also to products and services. Graphic design falls under the realm of product. 

Why use Universal Design

The word “universal” in the term refers to its benefit; by using universal design in your graphics, you’re allowing anyone to engage with your material. Universal design doesn’t meet the user halfway, but rather you are meeting the user where they are. Plus, universal design is also good design. 

Principles of Universal Design

There are seven principles of Universal Design. They are as follows: 

  1. Equity: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. 
  2. Flexibility: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. 
  3. Simplicity: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level. 
  4. Perceptibility: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. 
  5. Error Tolerance: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. 
  6. Low Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. 
  7. Appropriate Size and Space: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture or mobility. 
Using the Principles in Graphic Design

There are steps you can take to channel the seven principles of universal design. As previously stated, some of these steps are also crucial when creating good design. 

Hierarchy and differentiating levels of importance | Simplicity, perceptibility 
When communicating, organize your information so that the most important information stands out the most. You can differentiate by font size, color or text treatment. It’s important to note that you should never differentiate importance with color alone. By doing so, you can hinder those with vision impairment. This page serves as an example. Each section starts with a header that is larger in size. Any important text that is within the body text receives a text treatment (in this case, it is bolded) to differentiate amongst other body text. 

Typography | Equity, simplicity, appropriate size and space 
Fonts can add flare to your design. However, be mindful that a lot of texts are not accessible. When designing anything JMU-related, stick with Artegra or other JMU-approved typography. These fonts were specifically chosen for accessibility. 

Color | Equity 
Colors can also add flare to your design. Before finalizing your graphic, check and make sure there’s enough contrast between your colors. There are a couple of ways to check color contrast using a contrast check online or using JMU trusted color combinations from the style guide 

Simplifying information | Equity, simplicity, low effort 
It’s best to keep information simple by keeping the reading level between 7th and 9th grade. If you’re not sure which level your text is at, use a readability checker such as any of these programs recommended by Medium. Another way to simplify your information is to only include necessary information. This is also helpful when adding alt-text; every word on a graphic should be included in the alt-text of your digital graphic.  


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