8 Universal Design for Learning

Paula Lombardi

8. Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

What does the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) say about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) ?

Universal Design: IDEA refers to the definition of universal design that is used in the Assistive Technology Act.

The term ‘universal design’ means a concept or philosophy for designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities, which include products and services that are directly usable (without requiring assistive technologies) and products and services that are made usable with assistive technologies.
(Assistive Technology Act of 1998, 29 U.S.C. 3002) (Federal Legislation and Assistive Technology, 2013, pg 32).

UDL in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

UDL is referenced numerous times in the ESSA bill.

For example

SEC. 4104. STATE USE OF FUNDS [for Student Support and Academic Enrichments]
Funds shall be used to support “local education agencies in providing programs that increase access to personalized, rigorous learning experiences supported by technology by … providing technical assistance to local educational agencies to improve the ability of local educational agencies to use technology, consistent with the principles of universal design for learning, to support the learning needs of all students, including children with disabilities and English learners …”

(Cast, n.d.)

*UDL principles and strategies are not limited to assistive technology.

Understanding and applying the UDL principles is going to be foundational to your teacher education program. You will study the Iris Module on Universal Design for Leaning and discuss UDL in a discussion forums. Because you will address UDL in each summary you may need additional resources.

Below are a few good UDL resources.

  • Start here– The IRIS Center. (2009). Universal Design for Learning: Creating a Learning Environment that Challenges and Engages All Students. Retrieved from https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/udl/
  • CAST- is a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals about UDL. The CAST website is a gateway to principles, tools and resources for educators.
  • Universal Design for Learning Guidelines– print for a quick and concise reference on UDL (CAST, 2018)
  • UDL Aligned Strategies– From the Goalbook ToolKit. Scroll over each strategy this is categorized by the 3 UDL principles to read a short definition. Click on the link to learn more about each UDL strategy.

Key Takeaways: UDL strategies to support learners with — Disability access the curriculum and inclusive learning environments.

  • You will need to synthesis the readings/course materials and relate that information to the 3 UDL principles to the specific needs of the learner with _____ disability. 
  • Include at least 2 UDL strategies that represent each of the 3 UDL principles. ( 6 in total)
    • Provide multiple means of representation: the what (recognition)
    • Provide multiple means of action and expression: how (strategies)
    • Provide multiple means of engagement: why (affective networks)
  • Ask yourself:

    How does the UDL strategy address the specific needs of the student with ___ disability?

In the first few weeks of the term I will help you with this section by providing you with examples of UDL, while you are in the early learning stage.


CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Graphic from Pixabay- public domain

CAST (n.d.) UDL in the ESSA. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/whats-new/news/2016/udl-in-the-essa.html#essa

Federal Legislation and Assistive Technology, (2013). Retrieved from https://www.ocali.org/up_doc/AT_Resource_Guide_2.pdf 



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