Learn About UDL

The Concept

Universal Design originated in the field of architecture, with the goal of creating places and things that were accessible to as many people as possible. For example, curb cuts were originally designed to enable people with wheelchairs to move more smoothly about their community. Curb cuts not only accomplished that, but also improved access for people with strollers, bikes, and skateboards. Hence, the term “universal.”

Similarly, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a curb cut for the classroom. Universal Design for Learning is a research-based framework for designing curricula—that is, educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments—that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. This is accomplished by simultaneously providing rich supports for learning and reducing barriers to the curriculum, while maintaining high achievement standards for all students.

In today's classroom, there is widespread variability of all learners. Every student arrives with a different set of skills, life experiences, and abilities, which means one size does not fit all. The Universal Design for Learning structure is research based and aims to change the design of classrooms, school practices, and coursework rather than change each unique learner. It minimizes barriers and maximizes learning no matter what a student’s ability, disability, age, gender, or cultural background. It reduces obstacles to learning and provides appropriate accommodations and supports. It does all of this while keeping expectations high for all students.

The UDL framework encompasses three overarching principles that aim to minimize barriers and maximize learning. A universally designed curriculum includes:

  • Multiple means of engagement to challenge appropriately, to motivate, and to allow learners to express and participate in their interests.
  • Multiple means of representation to allow various ways of acquiring information and knowledge.
  • Multiple means of expression to allow alternatives for demonstrating knowledge.