Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was inspired by universal design in architecture, a movement to design structures with all potential users in mind and incorporate access features such as ramps and elevators before building (Connell et al., 1997). Beyond providing access for individuals with disabilities, these features had unexpected benefits for the general population, providing more widespread usability. UDL applies this same strategy to curricula, considering the needs of all students at the design stage and building in features that support equal access to learning and to information. Teachers charged with delivering instruction to a diverse group of learners representing a variety of cultures, languages, learning styles, abilities, and disabilities, can use UDL principles to provide full access to all students.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL):

  • provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and
  • reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient. [HEOA, P.L. 110-315, §103(a)(24)].

The Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia (effective July 7, 2009) defines the terms as follows:
"Universal design" has the meaning given the term in 3 of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended.  29 USC § 3002.  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. (34 CFR 300.44 and  8VAC20-81-10)