I have heard about "universal design for learning (UDL)," but I do not fully understand what the term means. What is it and when would I use it?

Universal design for learning is an approach that supports educators in assuring that students who have disabilities, particularly those who have low incidence disabilities (e.g., sensory disabilities, severe behavioral problems), can access the general education curriculum. According to the website of the Center for Applied Special Technology , "Universal Design for Learning supports teachers' efforts to meet the challenge of diversity by providing flexible instructional materials, techniques, and strategies that help teachers differentiate instruction to meet these varied needs. It does this by providing options for:

  • Presenting information and content in different ways (the "what" of learning)
  • Differentiating the ways that students can express what they know (the "how" of learning)
  • Stimulating interest and motivation for learning (the "why" of learning)

A universally designed curriculum is designed from the outset to meet the needs of the greatest number of users, making costly, time-consuming, and after-the-fact changes to curriculum unnecessary."

Factual Information

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) is a primary resource for information about universal design for learning. The CAST web site provides a definition of universal design along with a history and other valuable information about the use of universal design.

As a teacher, you and your colleagues in special education will call on universal design principles when you prepare your classroom and design instruction to support students who have disabilities, especially those with more severe disabilities. The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) has a Planning for All Learners (PAL) toolkit that explains the basic concepts of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) along with information about how to apply UDL to lessons.

Classroom Activities

  • Download the Lesson Analysis Template from CAST and create an inventory of the current methods you use to make lesson content accessible to all of the learners in your classroom.
  • Download and complete the UDL Class Profile Maker Tool from CAST to create a profile of the learning diversity in your classroom.


Download the Curriculum Barriers Tutorial and work with a colleague to identify the barriers that prevent students from accessing the curriculum.

Resources and Links