Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2012

Publication Source

Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability


Engineers must design for a diverse group of potential users of their products; however, engineering curricula rarely include an emphasis on universal design principles. This research article details the effectiveness of a design project implemented in a first-year engineering course in an effort to raise awareness of the need for engineers to be more inclusive when designing. Students were asked to apply universal design principles to redesign an engineering laboratory to make it more usable to all, including individuals with disabilities who use the room. A representative from the university’s disability services staff, as well as individuals with first-hand experience of disability, provided guidance to the class by serving as project mentors. Design decision analyses were reviewed to determine the specific criteria student teams believed were most important in identifying specific design ideas to pursue.

These analyses were used to evaluate the success of this project in helping students be more cognizant of the need for designs to be flexible, versatile, and universally designed. These criteria were compared to projects from previous classes in which universal design had not been explicitly addressed. Results indicated that students who participated in the universal design project were much more likely to consider criteria related to universal design principles, though they identified accessibility as more important than the more overarching goals of achieving a universally usable design. Results suggest that such a universal design project is one possible model to better prepare engineering students and that the model can be strengthened through involvement of disability services professionals.

Inclusive pages


Document Version

Published Version


Article is made available for download in this repository with the permission of the publisher. Permission documentation is on file.


AHEAD: Association on Higher Education and Disability





Peer Reviewed



Universal design, engineering education, project-based learning, design decision analysis