Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

What is Universal Design?

The law mandates that higher education institutions provide accommodations to people with disabilities in most, if not all aspects, by removing barriers to access within employment, use of facilities, services and communications. These accommodations may include ramps and elevators, allergen-free food in the cafeteria, time extensions for exams, closed captions and transcripts for recorded lectures, and websites compatible with electronic screen readers. When properly designed and implemented, such accommodations have potential to not only remove barriers to access for people with disabilities, but also enhance and improve experience for all users. For example, a well-designed ramp is essential for people using wheelchairs but can also be used by those with strollers.

Taking accessibility compliance one step further, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) aims to benefit all learners in a diverse classroom (including but not limited to learners with disabilities, multiple learning styles, cultural differences, language diversity and life experiences) through a variety of instructional, assessment and engagement techniques.

What is Diversity?

Diversity in a higher education setting may include race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability (physical, sensory or learning), a wide range of cognitive abilities, various learning styles and preferences and personal experiences. Understanding diversity is essential to UDL.

What are UDL best practices?

Offer instruction via multiple modalities:

  • Record live lectures and post in Blackboard for later review
  • Use electronic textbooks (ask publishers about accessibility)
  • Provide transcripts and captions with video recordings
  • Add interactivity, such as polling via SMS and ECHO360 Active Learning Platform
  • Post readings prior to class/ flip content
  • Encourage active experimentation and self-directed learning 

Allow for multiple ways to assess student work:

  • Essay
  • Test
  • Presentation
  • Video
  • Screenplay
  • Portfolio
  • Website

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