Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

5 Ways to Embrace Universal Design in Your Communication Department

In the workplace, embracing Universal Design in communication fosters a culture of inclusivity and empowers employees of all backgrounds to participate fully.

Danny Combs //February 15, 2024//

5 Ways to Embrace Universal Design in Your Communication Department

In the workplace, embracing Universal Design in communication fosters a culture of inclusivity and empowers employees of all backgrounds to participate fully.

Danny Combs //February 15, 2024//

In a world where communication is the cornerstone of human interaction, ensuring everyone can participate equally is paramount. However, traditional modes of communication often need to pay more attention to the diverse needs of individuals, leaving many marginalized and excluded.

This is where the concept of Universal Design in communication emerges as a critical solution, aiming to create inclusive environments that cater to the needs of all individuals, regardless of their abilities or backgrounds.

Universal Design, originally conceived in the realm of architecture and product design, has also found its place in communication. At its core, Universal Design advocates for creating products, environments and communication channels accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities, the elderly, non-native speakers and those with varying cognitive abilities.

One of the primary benefits of Universal Design in communication is its ability to break down barriers and foster inclusivity. Implementing principles such as simplicity, flexibility and intuitiveness make communication more accessible to a wider audience.

For instance, using plain language and avoiding jargon not only benefits individuals with cognitive disabilities but also makes information easier to understand for everyone. Universal Design emphasizes the importance of multiple modalities in communication.

Recognizing that people have different preferences and abilities when it comes to receiving information, incorporating various formats such as text, audio, video and visual aids ensures that everyone can access and comprehend the content. This approach not only accommodates individuals with disabilities but also enhances the overall clarity and effectiveness of communication for all.

Here are five examples:

1. Accessible websites

Designing websites with clear navigation, readable fonts, and alternative text for images ensures that individuals with visual impairments can access the content using screen readers. Additionally, providing captions for videos and transcripts for audio content makes the website accessible to individuals with hearing impairments.

READ: The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Accessibility, and How it Can Boost Your Platform

2. Plain language

Using plain language in written communication, such as instructional materials, newsletters and official documents, ensures that the information is easy to understand for individuals with cognitive or reading disabilities. This includes avoiding jargon, using simple sentence structures and providing definitions for complex terms.

3. Multimodal communication

Presenting information using multiple modes of communication, such as text, images, audio and video, ensures that individuals with diverse learning preferences and abilities can access the content effectively. For example, using visual aids alongside verbal explanations in presentations caters to both visual and auditory learners.

4. Accessible print materials

Designing printed materials, such as brochures, posters and flyers, with high-contrast colors, large font sizes and simple layouts ensures that individuals with visual impairments or dyslexia can read the content easily. Additionally, providing materials in electronic formats allows individuals to adjust settings for readability, such as font size and color contrast.

5. Alternative communication systems

Implementing alternative communication systems, such as sign language interpreters, Braille materials and text-to-speech devices, ensures that individuals with speech or hearing impairments can effectively communicate and access information in various contexts, including meetings, presentations and public events.

Why we need universal design

In the digital age, the need for Universal Design in communication is more pressing than ever.

With the proliferation of online platforms and digital content, ensuring accessibility for all users is essential. This includes designing websites, mobile applications and digital documents in compliance with accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

By considering screen reader compatibility, keyboard navigation and captioning factors, organizations can ensure that their digital communication channels are inclusive and equitable for everyone.

Furthermore, Universal Design in communication goes beyond accessibility and promotes diversity and cultural sensitivity. Recognizing communities’ linguistic and cultural diversity, communication materials should be tailored to resonate with different audiences. This may involve translating content into multiple languages, using culturally appropriate imagery and incorporating diverse perspectives to ensure everyone feels represented and valued.

In the workplace, embracing Universal Design in communication fosters a culture of inclusivity and empowers employees of all backgrounds to participate fully.

By providing accommodations such as closed captioning for meetings, offering alternative formats for training materials and promoting inclusive language practices, organizations can create a more welcoming and supportive environment for all employees.

Moreover, Universal Design in communication extends beyond the realm of written and spoken language to encompass non-verbal forms of communication. This includes designing physical spaces with accessibility features such as ramps, tactile signage and hearing loops to accommodate individuals with mobility or sensory impairments.

By considering the diverse needs of users across various communication channels, we can create truly inclusive and barrier-free environments. Universal Design in communication is not merely a matter of compliance or accessibility; it is a fundamental principle of equity and social justice.


CombsdannyDanny Combs is a leading voice in creating equitable futures for neurodistinct individuals in business. Mr. Combs is the founder of TACT (Teaching the Autism Community Trades), the state of Colorado’s leading transition to employment and training organization, and the co-founder of the Colorado Neurodiversity Chamber of Commerce, the first neurodiverse chamber in the country. Danny has brought together almost 100 businesses to build better opportunities, pay, and career advancement for neurodistintic individuals. His organizations have raised millions in funding to create scholarships for all socioeconomic classes.