Universal design is a principle dictating that something should be designed to suit as broad a range of users as possible. In academia, this can refer to electronic resources, documents, presentation materials, media, online content, and in-person activities.
While universal design is meant to help accommodate people with disabilities (in accordance with ADA compliance), universally designed educational resources benefit a much wider audience of students and learners across the board.
Although there are many guidelines available to learn and a host of issues to tackle, having universal design on your radar is a critical first step. The more time and effort (and sometimes funding) you put in ahead of time, the more likely you will be to save time and effort later.
At Berkeley we provide service to all kinds of students across disciplines, languages, cultures, and educational backgrounds. Our user populations are constantly changing and frequently unpredictable when we give a presentation, work with a class, or create online content. We should devote time and effort to giving all of our students the best possible chance to succeed at their coursework and beyond.
Many students may have difficulty expressing their information needs to a librarian or faculty member, and most students will not know whether any particular learning style works best for them, or may not identify with or disclose a disability. Therefore, we must maintain no assumptions about our audience and try to take multiple possibilities into account by applying practices of universal design.