Leading Edge Resources: Lifelong Education

Universal design for Learning is defined as the design of instructional materials and activities that make learning goals achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage and remember. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is achievable via flexible curricular materials and activities that provide alternatives for students with differing abilities. These alternatives are built into the instructional design and operating systems of educational materials; they are not added on after-the-fact.

The Family Center on Technology and DisabilityUDL principles can be applied to lectures, classroom discussions, group work, handouts, web-based instruction, labs, fieldwork, and other academic activities and materials. These principles allow for multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement. The following are examples of instructional methods that employ principles of universal design:

  • Inclusiveness. A UDL classroom environment respects and values diversity. Students are encouraged to meet with the teacher to discuss disability-related accommodations and other special learning needs. No student should be stigmatized or segregated. The privacy of all students is respected.
  • Physical Access. Classrooms, labs, and fieldwork are accessible to individuals with a wide range of physical abilities and disabilities. Equipment and activities minimize sustained physical effort, provide options for operation, and accommodate right- and left-handed students as well as those with limited physical abilities. The safety of all students is assured.
  • Delivery Methods. Delivery methods, including lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, Internet-based interaction and fieldwork are alternated. Each method is accessible to students with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, interests, and previous experiences. Teachers/instructors face the class and speak clearly in an environment that is comfortable and free from distractions. Multiple modes to deliver content are used. Printed materials summarize content that is delivered orally.
  • Information Access. Captioned videotapes are employed. Printed materials are available in electronic format. Text descriptions of graphics presented on web pages are provided, as are printed materials that allow students to prepare for the topic to be presented. Printed and web-based materials are presented in simple, intuitive, and consistent formats. Content is arranged in order of importance.
  • Interaction. Students are encouraged to interact with each other and with the teacher. Methods may include in-class questions and discussion, group work and Internet-based communications. Universal accessibility, without accommodation, is encouraged.
  • Feedback. Effective prompting during an activity should be provided, along with feedback after an assignment is completed.
  • Demonstration of Knowledge. Students should demonstrate knowledge in multiple ways. For example, group work, demonstrations, portfolios, and presentations as options for demonstrating knowledge can be utilized in addition to traditional tests and papers.