“The purpose of education is not to make information accessible, but rather to teach learners how to transform accessible information into usable knowledge.”

Introduction to the UDL Guidelines (CAST, 2012)

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An email discussion list focusing on UDL has been created. You can easily join the list by linking to Join The UDL@UVA Email List.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that guides the design of learning goals, materials, methods, and assessments while keeping in mind the diversity of learners and the variety of characteristics and experiences brought to the academic experience.

Developed by CAST, this framework is a blueprint to improve and optimize teaching based on three primary guidelines - the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines:

Download the UDL Graphic Organizer

About the Graphic Organizer

Courses designed around these theories and principles are not specifically creating an accessible environment. Rather, UDL is about designing interactions to be more accessible to all learners; offering the learner choice and control, and keeping learners engaged. Following these guidelines helps to create a learning environment which lends itself to greater accessibility.

How is UDL/Inclusive Design Different?

A table noting the differences between traditional instruction, UDL/Inclusive Designed instruction, and accommodations.
Traditional Instruction UDL/Inclusive Design Accommodation
Static Proactive Reactive

Evaluates the curriculum

Evaluates the environment/culture

Evaluates the student

Actions follow unchanging script

Actions are flexible and intentional

Actions from cause/effect

Instruction designed for instructor

Designs instruction prior to arrival of students

Retrofits instruction by providing accommodation

Focuses on average

Focuses on variability

Focuses on individual disability

Plans for the average

Plans for the margins

Modifies plans for individuals

Values average

Values variety

Values conformity to normal

Perceives no barriers to learning

Anticipates and removes barriers

Works around barriers

Credit to Lillian Nave. Used with permission

"Plus-One Thinking"

Adopting a new framework can be daunting. Try  "Plus-One Thinking". Instead of trying to create the perfect course, follow the three guidelines and in your current course structure and materials, add just one more option to each. One additional way to motivate, an additional method of providing information, and an additional way to interact with the material.

"For every interaction that learners have now -- with the materials, yes, but also with each other, with instructors and with the wider world -- provide one more way for that interaction to happen. The 'plus-one' approach helps to take what otherwise might look like an insurmountable amount of effort and break it down into manageable, approachable chunks. It also helps people to determine where to start applying the UDL framework so they can address current challenges and pain points in their interactions.” (Thomas Tobin)

Resources to Help Introduce You to the UDL Framework 

Creating Course Content with UDL and Accessibility in Mind

Join the conversation!

An email discussion list focusing on UDL has been created. You can easily join the list by linking to Join The UDL@UVA Email List.