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About Curricular Access

Disability Resources at the University of Arizona uses concepts from Disability Studies to inform practice. Disability scholars argue that disability is a sociopolitical construct created and perpetuated by an environment whose barriers exclude disabled people from access and participation. This concept minimizes the impact of an individual’s impairment and locates the “problem”, or burden of responsibility, to the environment. When considering curricular environments, shifting the focus from the individual student to the environment yields promising and exciting opportunities to design inclusive, accessible and sustainable learning experiences.

Universal Design (UD) concepts are useful in operationalizing this philosophy. Using UD principles, faculty and instructors can design learning assessments, activities, and course materials that are accessible and inclusive of a diverse range of students. The primary goal of inclusive course design is to maximize student learning by increasing access and participation. Planful curricular design can reduce the need for individual accommodations and create more engaging learning experiences for all students.

Here are some common curricular features and the potential impact of their design. The resources on this page seek to orient faculty and instructors to design concepts that will increase access in the classroom, as well as provide resources that synthesize research explaining the benefits of inclusive design.




Inclusive Design


Timed Exams
  • Student and faculty must arrange individual accommodations each semester
  • Student may test in a separate location
  • Student will not have access to faculty during exam to ask questions
  • Consider alternatives to traditional assignments:
    • Shorter, more frequent assessments
    • Online assessments or projects, where time is not the essential element
  • All students have equitable testing experience
  • All students have time to complete assessment in original learning environment
  • Redesigned assessments may increase time available to teach

Inaccessible Course Materials

  • Student may fall behind when s/he cannot access materials
  • Faculty must work with DRC each semester to procure accessible materials
  • Student must wait for access
  • Ensure PDF's are accessible
  • Order textbooks that have electronic options
  • Provide course materials in multiple formats
  • Students can access course materials in multiple formats (print or electronic) so they can maximize learning
Class Notes Not Provided
  • Faculty must solicit note-takers for each class
  • Student may fall behind while waiting for volunteer to provide notes
  • Faculty encourages sharing notes, uses online discussion groups, records lecture and posts as podcasts
  • Faculty provides her/his notes for the class
  • All students will have materials to enhance their learning and studying