Day 9 - Inclusive Design for OER



The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore:

  • The basic tenets and principles of of Inclusive Design and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • Inclusive design practices and strategies for selecting, creating and using OER

Day Nine: Inclusive Design for OER

"Please come in" sign indicating a welcome to the module for all


The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore:

  • The basic tenets and principles of of Inclusive Design and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • Inclusive design practices and strategies for selecting, creating and using OER

Today’s Module - With a Little Help From My Friends

Hi, I’m Joanne Kehoe, coming at you from eCampusOntario where I work as a Program Manager. I’m on secondment from McMaster University, where I’ve spent 20 (gulp!) years working in various teaching and learning departments, including most recently as an Instructional Designer. Part of my work at Mac involves membership on our Accessibility Committee as well as our OER Committee, where I have the opportunity to interact with impassioned educators working towards more inclusive and open education for our learners. I’m no expert by any means, but many people are and we’ll tap into to some of the wonderful, open resources they’ve created. Being open and inclusive go together like bacon and eggs, bubbles and baths, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - together they have the power to satisfy, inspire and dazzle us all.

What do we mean by Inclusive Design?

We’ve all likely heard the words, “make yourself at home,” while as a guest in someone’s house. Sometimes we feel comfortable enough to say, pick up a magazine and read it, but it may take a while to reach the level of opening the fridge and making yourself a Dagwood sandwich. Being inclusive is cultivating that “I’m at home in another person’s home” experience. Creating that inclusive atmosphere isn’t as simple as saying you’re inclusive, it is about inclusiveness as a daily practice, so it is natural and a part of you. Inclusive design in education is just that - it is enmeshed in your work, not an add-on you tack on down the road.

You may be more familiar with the terms universal design for learning (UDL) and accessible design than inclusive design and all three will be referred to and included as guideposts for the resources and references in this module. All are about access - access which aims to bring all diverse individuals in rather than shutting them out. The difference between inclusive design and accessible design is that the latter sometimes involves tweaking an original design to make it suitable for a group of users, whereas inclusive design considers all users throughout the design process . An example might be a watch that is designed in such a way that it can be read by touch, sight and an auditory cue versus a watch that is designed in one way with a secondary version designed for visually impaired users having braille for the numbers.

When you’re designing - whether it be a ‘thing’ or an experience - it is critical to think about all of your users - and this means everyone’s needs and abilities are considered. Inclusive design is just that - it includes those considerations right from the start. It is “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.” (IDRC, 2018).

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Inclusive design can trace its roots back to Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which was developed by The Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) back in the early 1990s. CAST has developed the Universal Design for Learning framework to help educators remove all barriers for all learners when designing their teaching and learning activities. It is guided by the following three principles:

Principle 1: Multiple Means of Representation
Principle 2: Multiple Means of Expression
Principle 3: Multiple Means of Engagement

Illustration of the principles Universal Design for Learning, being multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression and multiple means of engagement.

CAST provides an online UDL guidelines tool that expands on these three principles as well as giving educators suggestions that can be implemented into their curriculum design and supporting materials, including open educational resources. The following image is a snapshot of these guidelines - if you click and follow the link you will be able to really dig in.

Chart linked to CAST framework showing how educators can provide different options for the principles of UDL

What are the Dimensions of Inclusive Design?

Aerial image of a carnival to illustrate the multiple points of entry and pathways an experience can take.

Inclusive design differs slightly from UDL in that rather than design something that can be universally used by all, inclusive design taps into the power of the digital realm which makes a more personalized “one size fits one” approach possible. Inclusive design means that while all are considered, there can be multiple entry points and pathways depending on an individual’s needs. It’s kind of like entering a carnival from a number of available ticket booths and carving your own pathway through the games, rides, food and attractions in a way that suits you (I’m partial to Skeeball, Tilt-A-Whirl, pogos and demolition derbies FYI).

The dimensions of inclusive design - inclusive process and tools, recognizing diversity and uniqueness and broader beneficial impact  and how you can utilize these.impact.

The above graphic was developed by the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University whose work centres around the three dimensions of inclusive design, which are:

  • Recognize diversity and uniqueness
  • Inclusive process and tools
  • Broader beneficial impact

These dimensions are beautifully expanded upon in their Inclusive Design Guide which is segmented into four parts; Insights, Practices, Tools and Activities which offer practical methods you can integrate and learn from. Watch this two minute video to get a taste of what the Guide offers:

It is important to keep in mind that this module is a very brief introduction – to get a comprehensive look at how to create inclusive educational resources, the Floe: Inclusive Learning Design Handbook developed by the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University is your continually-evolving go-to. As one of the project team members (and a fantastic person to add to your open learning network) Jess Mitchell advises, you should read through it and while you’re doing this, challenge any assumptions you have and try to re-see what you can do to adapt your practice.   

Inclusive Design and OER

An inclusive learning experience involves content, activities and resources that fit and can be adapted to everyone’s unique needs. Using open education resources (OER) can greatly enrich this by adding diverse and flexible options for learners. However, not all OER are designed in an inclusive manner. Through the magic of the 5 R’s of Open Education, you are empowered to be able to modify or transform resources in a multitude of ways. However, there are OER that have been created in inflexible, proprietary formats that make creating derivatives challenging.

Here’s a great tutorial from the Teach Access Initiative that introduces you to the basics of developing and building inclusive learning experiences:

Tech-know how on creating inclusive OER or make the open work of others inclusive

If you’ve started here, wander back and look at the resources in the earlier sections as both the principles of UDL and the dimensions of inclusive design sections all should give you approaches and methodologies that you should keep in mind when creating or adapting OER. Technically speaking, there are a variety of formats an OER can take. The BC Open Accessibility Toolkit is an open resource that takes a look at the more common types and guides you on how you might create an inclusive derivative of the following:

Using information from the toolkit, follow along to see a checklist of recommendations to make the above resources more accessible

And if you’re starting from scratch in building an OER, congrats! As we’ve learned, building in an inclusive design approach from step one is optimum. The inclusive design approach can sometimes be easier than retro-fitting other’s work.

For other types of OER, we encourage you to take a look at the resources contained in the “Explore More” section.

Day 9 Activity (Choice)

Option One:

Web Accessibility Tools: Take a look at the Accessibility Assessment Tools located in the Floe: Inclusive Design Handbook around Authoring, Checking Code or Checking Colour. You can also go deeper by looking at the multitude of web accessibility tools available from the W3C.  

Next, choose one (or more) OERs and check it using some of the tools. How well did it perform accessibility-wise? Was there anything about your results that could be done to make the resource more inclusive?

Option Two:

Developing a Persona - The Inclusive Design Guide includes an activity on developing personas to help identify users of a design. Think about an OER you might want to develop and create a persona (or personas) for it, using the steps outlined in the guide. Then, reflect on how you would design with these personas in mind and any considerations you would include in that process.

Option Three:

Creating an Inclusive OER

Adding an image to Flickr - If you have a Flickr account, take/share and upload a picture to your account, using an open license. Using recommendations for images from the BC Open Accessibility Toolkit articulate what the image functions and alt-text would be.

With any of the three options, you can choose to share your work in the Day 9 discussion forum, in a chosen social media space (blog, tweet, Instagram), or just save it for your own reflection.

Explore More

Inclusive Design Toolkit (Cambridge University)

Inclusive Learning Design Handbook

WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Inclusive Design at Microsoft: Microsoft does a good job of providing explanations and resources around cultivating an inclusive design process, including downloadable activity cards. -current news, articles and resources on Universal Design


IDRC: Inclusive Design Research Centre. (2018). What is Inclusive Design.

Image and Document Credits (listed in order of appearance)

“Please Come In” Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

“Universal Design for Learning from Center for Applied Special Technology” by Giulia Forsythe  via the Public Domain.

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from

“Aerial” Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash


Content for Making Sense of Open Education Day 9 by Joanne Kehoe is licensed with a CC BY 4.0 International license (unless otherwise indicated with citation and/or attribution).

Last modified: Saturday, 9 June 2018, 5:15 AM