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Access for All Customers: Universal Strategies for One-Stop Career Centers

Institute Brief Issue No. 26


Originally published: 1/2009

January 2009


One-Stop Career Centers serve a diverse range of customers. These include individuals with a variety of educational and work backgrounds, people from diverse racial, linguistic and ethnic cultures, as well as individuals with a wide range of disabilities and support needs. One way of addressing the needs of this diverse customer base is to develop services and systems that respond to the needs of each of these groups. However, this can be expensive and labor-intensive. A more effective way to serve this broad customer pool is to provide One-Stop services according to the principles of what is known as "universal design," using common strategies that benefit many groups – and that reinforce the concept of an inclusive setting that welcomes and celebrates diversity. To find a manageable approach to meet the needs of their many customers, One-Stop Career Centers can think universally about how they design their physical space, service delivery systems, and customer resources. For example, the barriers faced by people who cannot read are similar despite the cause (e.g. cognitive disability, illiteracy, or limited English proficiency). Therefore, the strategies to overcome this barrier and allow customers to benefit from One-Stop services will be similar.
This proactive approach lessens the extent of service specialization that may be required to meet the needs of some audiences. When services are designed universally, they are more likely to benefit job seekers with a wide range of learning styles, languages, educational levels, intelligences, and abilities, allowing the One-Stop to meet customer needs in a more efficient fashion.

Benefits of Implementing Universal Strategies

The One-Stop system is required to be "universally accessible" meaning that any member of the general public (including those with disabilities) can access the system and use the basic or "core" One-Stop services. As part of this requirement, One-Stops are required to make efforts to provide access to members of various racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals in different age groups. The use of universal design strategies can be a major component in such efforts. Beyond helping to meet these mandates however, the use of universal design can simply enable the One-Stop to provide easier access, a welcoming atmosphere and better customer service to all segments of the population, particularly those most in need of One-Stop services. For example, individuals with disabilities represent approximately 45 million Americans. Over 10% of the population of the United States is foreign-born, and in certain regions of the country this percentage is much higher, with a significant portion of the population having limited English language skills. In addition, the largest segment of the American population is over fifty, and many of these individuals will continue to work into their seventies. While many of these older workers may not have a disability, they could still benefit from a design that requires less physical exertion, and supports memory and organizational skills.

Developing services that are accessible to the largest number of people will reduce the need for specialized assistance, individualized accommodation requests and allow customers to use services immediately rather than waiting to have an accommodation in place. This approach will also reduce the demand on staff time for customer assistance, as customers will be able to work more independently. The end result is both more efficient use of staff resources, and higher customer satisfaction. While there will continue to be situations in which specific assistance and accommodations will need to be provided for some customers, since fewer such requests will be necessary, it will be easier to respond to those requests.
If universal design considerations are incorporated into the original design of a One-Stop, the cost is typically low and the result more aesthetically pleasing. Retrofitting space or services after the design is set can potentially interrupt the flow of services and have a negative impact as an add-on to existing facilities and procedures. While this post-hoc design can improve services, it generally does not completely meet the needs of either the individuals who require additional support or the general public.

Principles of Universal Design

The Principles and Guidelines for Universal Design were conceived and developed by The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. The Examples for One-Stops are based on the Principles and developed by the Institute for Community Inclusion. These examples are separate and distinct from the Principles and Guidelines, and listing of the examples in no way constitutes or implies acceptance or endorsement by The Center for Universal Design of these examples.

Principle One: Equitable Use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.


Examples for a One-Stop:

Principle Two: Flexibility in Use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.


Examples for a One-Stop:

Principle Three: Simple and Intuitive

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Eliminate unnecessary complexity.


Examples for a One-Stop:

Principle Four: Perceptible Information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.


Examples for a One-Stop:

Principle Five: Tolerance for Error

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.


Examples for a One-Stop:

Principle Six:Low Physical Effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.


Examples for a One-Stop:

Principle Seven: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.


Examples for a One-Stop:

Implementing Universal Strategies in One-Stops: A Checklist

The checklist below is intended as a tool to help One-Stop staff implement a universal design approach to their own services. At first glance, some of these ideas may seem simple or obvious. However, like in any organization, it is easy for One-Stops and their staff to become comfortable doing things a certain way based on their own perspectives and experiences, and to assume that such processes work well for everyone. Implementing these strategies will enhance the service delivery to all customers within the One-Stop system. These ideas are intended as a starting point, to prompt consideration and development of the wide range of possibilities for maximizing the universal access of a One-Stop.

Using the Checklist

This checklist was developed as a result of work conducted by the Metro North Regional Employment Board in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which evaluated its One-Stop services for accessibility, as part of Metro North's Customized Employment Project, funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. While Workforce Investment Board and One-Stop staff can complete the checklist, it can also be useful to have an outside entity to use the checklist to evaluate services, which can potentially result in more candid and useful feedback from a customer perspective. In the case of Metro North, a local disability organization was used to assist with the evaluation process.
Another such method that can be used is a "mystery shopper". "Mystery shoppers" are individuals who are not known to staff providing the service. The shoppers use One-Stop services like any other customer, evaluate the user-friendliness of the services and how their needs were met, and later report their experiences. Finding mystery shoppers that represent individuals who have barriers to employment can help get a true picture of how services meet the needs of specific populations. Examining services in this manner is not intended to be a compliance review or to catch staff doing something wrong, but instead is part of efforts towards continually monitoring and improving services to better meet customers’ needs.

By following these guidelines, One-Stops foster self-service while making their services more accessible to all customers.

Welcoming Environment



Group orientations are held in many One-Stops and allow new customers to learn about the range of services available and how to access them. Orientation components may include a review of the One-Stop services, calendar of workshops and tour of the center.


Workshops and Classes

Print Material

Resource Room

Background on Universal Design and Disability

Universal design was originally developed as an architectural concept that emphasized creating and designing environments and services to meet as wide a range of preferences and needs as possible. Rather than thinking about a design solely from the perspective of the average user or a particular population such as people with disabilities, the design considers approaches that have the broadest application that benefit customers from various backgrounds, learning styles, abilities, and disabilities.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, there was concern expressed about the expense of making adaptation to meet the needs of a small percentage of the population. As the ADA began to be implemented, it became clear that changes originally intended to benefit individuals with disabilities would benefit many members of the general public. The following are examples of changes that were previously considered special accommodations for individuals with disabilities but now have broader usage:


Principles and Guidelines of Universal Design, The Center for Universal Design (1997). The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University.


This publication is a product of the Massachusetts Medicaid Infrastructure and Comprehensive Employment Opportunities Grant (MI-CEO), a collaborative project of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Center for Health Policy and Research at UMass Medical School, and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston. This grant is funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CFDA #93-768). For more information, visit www.mi-ceo.org.

This publication was developed in collaboration with the Metro North Regional Employment Board's Customized Employment Project funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor, grant #E-9-4-1-0078. The authors would like to thank staff from the Metro North Regional Employment Board, Cambridge MA and the region's two One-Stop Career Centers, The Career Place and Career Source, for their assistance with this publication.

For more information, contact:

Institute for Community Inclusion
UMass Boston
100 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
617-287-4300 (voice); 617-287-4350 (TTY)

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities