Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning is a framework that provides educators with a structure to develop their instruction to meet the wide range of diversity among all learners.  UDL is a research-based framework that suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to curricula is not effective.  UDL was inspired by universal design in architecture, where design features intended for individuals with disabilities have had unexpected benefits for the general population (e.g. curb cut outs designed for wheelchair access have benefits for strollers, rolling luggage, skateboarders, etc.)

A concise definition of Universal Design for Learning was provided by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA)

The term UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that:

  1. 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
  2. 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)]


Three Principles of Universal Design for Learning

  1. Access - Provide Multiple Means of Representation
  2. Assessment - Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
  3. Engagement - Provide Multiple Means of Engagement


Questions about Universal Design for Learning

Is UDL just for students with disabilities?

While UDL certainly benefits students with disabilities, all students may benefit from the types of supports UDL provides.  For example, video captioning is of great help to students with hearing impairments because it provides them with a visual representation of speech.  However, this support may be beneficial to English language learners, struggling readers, and even students working in a noisy classroom.  http://www.udlcenter.org/advocacy/faq_guides


Is UDL included in the Common Core State Standards?

UDL is included in the section of the Common Core State Standards called “application to students with disabilities”.  In this section the authors referred to the definition laid out in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (PL 110-135).  The reference to UDL in this section may give the impression that UDL is just for students with disabilities.  However, UDL not only applies to students with disabilities, it applies to non-disabled learners as well.  As such, UDL should be used within general education environments.  Although this is the only specific mention of UDL in the Common Core State Standards, there are many concepts embedded throughout the standards that are aligned with the UDL framework.  http://www.udlcenter.org/advocacy/faq_guides


For more questions and answers about UDL, please visit http://www.cast.org/udl/faq/index.html


Universal Design for Learning Examples

Grade 1 Math https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuTJJQWnMaQ

Grade 5 Language Arts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE8N8bnIlgs

Grade 6 Science https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTxFYf50l-4


Several regional workshops have been created to provide introductory training on the Universal Design for Learning framework.  Click on the link for more information: An Overview of the UDL Framework and Components.

Handouts from the regional workshops


For more information about UDL in Wisconsin, please visit http://community.udlcenter.org/group/udl-in-wi-dpi


Universal Design for Learning Resources

For questions about this information, contact Jolene Troia (608) 266-5583