Universal Design Principles for Visual Media

The universal design approach goes beyond the technical requirements for the accommodation of persons with disabilities and towards their full participation in the ongoing social fabric of the world in which we all live. Universal design allows people of all abilities to experience rich media together, at the same time, in the same place, on the same channel.

Universal design integrates accessibility features in a way fully-sensed persons can also benefit. Research has shown that optimizing technical attainability, sensory responsiveness, and cognitive load improves learning and retention for all sensory abilities. 

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information as a human right. This convention was ratified by 180 countries including the U.S. The I-See-U blueprint aims to provide that access in a qualitatively equal manner for all persons.

A photograph of many instructional street signs in a cityscape

The Core Principles


The attainability of information has been supercharged by digital hardware and networks that can deliver searchable media containing text, audio, animation, video, and interactivity in a single product. 


Responsive design maximizes the user experience for every user regardless of ability or device. The media can automatically respond to the user no matter which device they are using or abilities they may have.  A couple of examples include:

Cognitive Load

Cognitive load is the sum total brain cognition Utilized to navigate or experience a digital or physical environment. 

Applying The Core principles

Progressive Sensory Engagment

Progressive enhancement starts with the most baseline type of information that most persons can access regardless of their sensory abilities: Text.