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How many times have you used a cut out curb to pull a suitcase, move a cart, push a stroller or ride your bike across an intersection? Do you prefer the ease of use and esthetic of lever faucet handles? We all benefit from Universal Design of physical spaces and the same is true of learning spaces. If you apply the three simple design principles of Universal Design for Learning to your course materials you will not only accommodate students with disabilities, but also the learning styles and preferences for all of your students.
Universal Design for Learning Principles
The three core principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are easy to implement strategies. Using these strategies each time you develop course materials is a proactive way to address accommodation needs of students, make your materials more accessible to all students and reduce the need to retroactively adapt your materials should you have a request from SDS (Student Disability Services) to do so.
The principles are:
- The What: Represent information in multiple ways. Provide students with different ways to acquire information or knowledge. This may include multiple modalities to represent information or flexible formats that allow students to enlarge text or access captions.
- The How: Give students options to demonstrate they have met learning outcomes. This may include allowing the use of different media and communication tools, designing assignments that provide choices for action or expression, and providing alternatives that accommodate the use of adaptive technologies, such as screen readers or adapted keyboards.
- The Why: Offer multiple aproaches for student engagement. This includes providing choices, making information relevant and relatable to a variety of learners.
To review more detailed examples and resources visit the National Center on UDL website guidelines page.
National Center on Universal Design for Learning
The center was founded in 2009 to provide support, information, and resources. http://democraticeducation.org/index.php/library/resource/national_center_on_universal_design_for_learning/
CAST is a nonprofit education research and development organization dedicated expanding learning opportunities through UDL. Founded in 1984, CAST supports creative research and development, strategic partnerships, teacher preparation and support, and international outreach. Partnership opportunities are available!
Read more about supporting evidence for UDL on the National Center's website.
The theory, pedagogy and neuroscience behind UDL are discussed in these books:
- Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age by Rose & Meyer (ASCD, 2002)
- The Universally Designed Classroom (Rose, Meyer, & Hitchcock, Eds.; Harvard Education Press, 2005)
- A Practical Reader in Universal Design for Learning (Rose & Meyer, Eds.; Harvard Education Press, 2006).