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Accessibility Resources: Universal Design for Learning

Find best practices and resources for designing accessible course content

What is Universal Design?

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it.

Learn more here.


Learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them. For example, those with learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia); language or cultural differences, etc. may all require different ways of learning the content. 

Learning occurs when multiple means representations are used because it allows students to make connections within, as well as between, concepts. In short, there is not one means of representation that will be optimal for all learners so providing options for representation is best (CAST UDL Guidelines, 2018).


How learners are affected by content is essential to the learning process. People differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. There are a variety of sources that can influence individual variation in affect such as neurology, personal relevance, and background knowledge. 

Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty while others are disengaged by those aspects, preferring routine. Some learners might like to work individually, while others prefer to work in groups. There is not one means of engagement that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for engagement is essential (CAST UDL Guidelines, 2018).

Action and Expression

Learners differ in the ways they navigate a learning environment and express what they know and have learned. For example, some individuals may be able to express themselves well in written text but not speech, and vice versa. It should also be recognized that action and expression require significant strategy, practice, and organization; this is another area where learners can differ. There is not only a single means of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners;  providing options for action and expression is necessary (CAST UDL Guidelines, 2018).

Video: What is UDL?

Infographic: UDL Guidelines

7 Principles of Universal Design

  1. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

  2. The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

  3. Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

  4. The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

  5. The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

  6. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

  7. Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

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