Universal design

Blind man reading a braille book

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for curriculum development that gives all students equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a model for:

  • Creating instructional goals, methods, materials and assessments that will work for everyone
  • Flexibility in how information is presented, in the ways learners respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged
  • Reducing barriers in instruction, providing appropriate accommodations and removing classroom challenges that might interfere with learning

All online learning environments should be accessible and follow the standards set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The UDL framework can assist educators in meeting those standards.

The UDL framework

UDL principles take into account the variability of learners, including learners who were formerly relegated to “the margins” of our educational systems but now are recognized as part of the predictable spectrum of variation. These principles guide the design of learning environments with a deep understanding of, and appreciation for, individual variability.

The UDL framework for how to develop lesson plans and assessments is based on these three principles:


Identifies methods that motivate learners and sustain their interest. Here are some examples:

Allow your students to make choices. 

Provide assignments that feel relevant to their lives.

Make skill-building feel like a game.

Provide opportunities for learners to get up and move around.


Information is provided in more than one format. For example, an instructor could provide a worksheet along with:

An audio file that is simply reading the written directions out loud.

A video that explains how to solve one of the problems.

Hands-on learning activities.


Providing learners multiple paths to interact with the material and to demonstrate what they know, for example, choosing between:

Completing a pencil-and-paper test.

Giving an oral report. 

Producing a video or a comic strip.

Participating in a group project.