Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Good design matters. Accessible design benefits everyone.

Designing accessible and inclusive educational content is proactive and welcoming for a diverse range of students. Good course design can give students a better opportunity to gain knowledge, skills, and motivation for learning.

To lessen the need for separate accommodations for disabled students, build common disability accommodations into the course. For example, choosing books that are available in digital format, showing videos with closed captioning, designing take-home exams, and building flexibility around assignment due dates into the syllabus. 

Universal Design (UD) was coined and defined by Ron Mace (1985) as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

The principles of UD promote: 

  • equitable use
  • flexibility in use
  • simple and intuitive use
  • perceptible information
  • tolerance for error
  • low physical effort
  • size and space for approach and use

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) emerged from UD. UDL integrates accessibility as an essential component and intends to create an inclusive learning environment, which can minimize potential barriers to learners.

UDL Principles

Three UDL principles: 

  • Provide multiple means of representation
  • Provide multiple means of action and expression
  • Provide multiple means of engagement


Provide students with course content in multiple ways. For example, using PowerPoint as a visual supplement to your lecture, designating a student to take notes in lecture and share with the class. 

Action and expression

Provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate what they have learned in the course. For example, providing opportunities for students to express their required knowledge through essays, a podcasts, class presentations, and video/audio recordings.


Provide multiple ways to encourage student engagement and motivation in the course. For example, engaging students in both group work activities and individual work.

Online resources

Engaging Teaching Practices (requires UMOnline Moodle Login) and info

Digital Accessibility Hub (requires UMOnline Moodle Login) and info 

Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction (by Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT)