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Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal design for learning (UDL) is an evolving framework based on the three networks of the learning brain:

  1. Affective, the why of learning;
  2. Recognition, the what of learning; and
  3. Strategic, the how of learning;

and the need to:

  1. Stimulate interest and motivation for learning through varying means,
  2. Present information and content in different ways, and
  3. Differentiate the ways students express what they know/have learned.

Through the implementation of UDL principles and practices during the design stage of products and services (instruction), these products and services can be made accessible, understood, and usable by all people, without the need for intervention, accommodations, supplementary services/tools. 

Learn more about UDL.



Accessible refers to the ability to obtain, use, and benefit from products (course content) and services (instruction), of both individuals with and individuals without disabilities. For example, an online document or tool can be accessed and understood by everyone regardless of the equipment used. Accessible content is created by following best practices in universal design for learning and accessibility.



An accommodation is an academic adaptation. If a student's documented disability can inhibit their academic success, they may receive a Letter of Accommodations from the Disability Resource Center listing the academic modifications necessary. These modifications are determined on an individual case-by-case basis.



The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines a person with a disability as someone who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working).
  • Has a record of such impairment; and/or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.



Usability refers to the extent a product, device, service, and/or environment can be used by users to achieve specified goals, effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily, in a specified context; it addresses average users, using standard equipment, with standard abilities, navigating and using a Web site.


Differential Instruction

Differential instruction is a process of teaching and learning in which an educator alters or modifies the current curriculum to address students' varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning and interests so that each learner obtains the knowledge, understanding, and skills need to move to the next phase of learning (Hall et al., 2004). 



Hall, T., Vue, G., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2004). Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. Wakefield, MA. National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. (Links updated 2014). Retrieved August, 30, 2016 from


Additional Resources

The Chronicle of Higher Education (2010) ProfHacker: Tips about teaching, technology, and productivity: Universal Design, Usability, and Accessibility