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Universal Design for Learning

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.  As author Jay Dolmage states:

“Universal design means the design of instructional materials and activities that allows the learning goals to be achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and remember.

Universal design for learning is achieved by means of flexible curricular materials and activities that provide alternatives for students with disparities in abilities and backgrounds. These alternatives should be built into the instructional design and operating systems of educational materials—they should not have to be added on later.”

Universal Design for Learning from

by Giulia Forsythe

Jay Dolmage, “Creating Universal Design Pedagogy for Disability Studies Courses”


What is the difference between “accommodations” and “accessibility”?


  • Is a reactive, documented, individualized approach to support a student with a disability
  • Changes the way the learning experience is provided to that one student, but does not change the overall approach to teaching



  • Proactive approach to identifying and removing barriers
  • Changes the overall approach to building, teaching, creating so that products, learning, etc. are accessible to all
  • Examples on previous slide highlighting Universal Design products/approaches

How do I know how much my courses are universally designed already?

Check guidelines for syllabus, course design, and instructional materials. Man The following sources can help you identify the extent to which your course is already universally designed:

How can I help students with universally designed courses?

First, be aware of, and think through, the most crucial issues.  Then, work through your course(s) to make them UDL.  This is a process; unless you have support, take this work a step at a time.

For issues of accommodation, contact UT’s Office of Disability Services:

For more on accessibility and UT, visit

For further information on the national movement for UDL on university campuses, see: “UDL On Campus” is a new Higher Education initiative at

see also this graphic handout:

and this course design handout:

(UCD brochure)



Thank you to Dr. Rob Spirko of the English Department and to the Office of Disabilities Services and David Ndiyae for contributions to this page.

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