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What is UDL?

Universal design for learning or UDL is an evidence and practice-based framework designed to help educators develop flexible learning environments that are sensitive to the unique ways in which individual students process information, demonstrate their knowledge and engage with content and ideas. UDL is an approach that aims to create learning experiences from the ground up that are flexible and open, rather than retrofitting inaccessible environments or providing ad hoc accommodations.

There are 3 key principles of UDL with 9 guiding practices. Accessibility related considerations are part in parcel of designing for the maximum benefit of all learners.

I. Provide multiple means of representation

  1. Provide options for perception
    • Options that customize the display of information
    • Options that provide alternatives for auditory information
    • Options that provide alternatives for visual information
  2. Provide options for language and symbols
    • Options that define vocabulary and symbols
    • Options that clarify syntax and structure
    • Options for decoding text or mathematical notation
    • Options that promote cross-linguistic understanding
    • Options that illustrate key concepts non-linguistically
  3. Provide options for comprehension
    • Options that provide or activate background knowledge (review)
    • Options that highlight critical features, big ideas, and relationships (concepts map, flowchart)
    • Options that guide information processing
    • Options that support memory and transfer

II. Provide multiple means of action and expression

  1. Provide options for physical action
    • Options in the mode of physical response
    • Options in the means of navigation
    • Options for accessing tools and assistive technologies
  2. Provide options for expressive skills and fluency
    • Options in the media for communication
    • Options in the tools for composition and problem solving
    • Options in the scaffolds for practice and performance
  3. Provide options for executive functions
    • Options that guide effective goal-setting
    • Options that support planning and strategy development
    • Options that facilitate managing information and resources
    • Options that enhance capacity for monitoring progress

III. Provide multiple means of engagement

  1. Provide options for recruiting interest
    • Options that increase individual choice and autonomy
    • Options that enhance relevance, value, and authenticity
    • Options that reduce threats and distractions
  2. Provide options for recruiting interest
    • Options that heighten salience of goals and objectives
    • Options that vary levels of challenge and support
    • Options that foster collaboration and communication
    • Options that increase mastery-oriented feedback
  3. Provide options for self-regulation
    • Options that guide personal goal-setting and expectations
    • Options that scaffold coping skills and strategies
    • Options that develop self-assessment and reflection

For more information about UDL Principles, implementation and Examples visit the CAST site:

Updated September 21, 2015 by Student & Academic Services