A depiction of four bicycle users with differing characteristics, all given the same bike depicting Equality. Another frame depicts Equity with the same users given bicycles to fit the characteristics of the person - user of a wheelchair gets a recumbent hand-driven bike, a tall person gets a tall bike, a shorter person gets a shorter bike, and a child gets a child sized bike.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) - A Flexible Approach to Learning

“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)

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:

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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.

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)

Below are a number of resources to help introduce you to the UDL framework. 

Join the conversation!

Leaders in UDL have presented at UVA over the past few years. Their presentations and materials from their sessions are located on a UVACollab site. For access to the site and to join the UDL@UVA email list, contact the Coordinator of Academic Accessibility at coaa@virginia.edu.