Universal Design in Learning

Follow these recommendations for designing classes and creating accessible course materials that include all students.

Principles of UDL

  1. Equitable Use: Provide the same means of use for all students; identical whenever possible, equivalent when not.
  2. Flexibility in Use: Provide choice in methods of use.
  3. Simple and Intuitive: Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
  4. Perceptible Information: Communicate necessary information effectively to students, regardless of ambient conditions or students’ sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: Anticipate individual variation in learning pace and prior skills.
  6. Low Physical Effort: Minimize nonessential physical effort in order to allow maximum attention to learning.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use: Consider size, space, posture, mobility, and communication needs.
  8. A Community of Learners: Promote connection among students and between students and instructors.
  9. Instructional Climate: Be welcoming and inclusive, and communicate high expectations to all students.

How to Include UDL in Courses

Knowledge Delivery

  • Offer printed material in multiple formats (hardcopy, online, word doc, pdf, etc.)
  • Create opportunities for active participation during lectures.
  • Provide copies of lecture slides before class.
  • Describe in words all images, charts, graphs, tables, etc., in your course materials. Include captions on all videos and alt text for all images.
  • Present online lectures in multiple formats, such as captioned videos, transcripts, slides with notes, and audio-only.

In-Class Activities

  • To assess participation in class:
    • Use electronic polls during class when there is a discussion or question.
    • Have students write and submit questions or discussion points, either electronically or on paper, at the end of each session.
    • Use activities like think-pair-share where students are sharing their partner’s ideas with the class as opposed to their own.
    • Create an online discussion board where students can post questions or thoughts.
  • When developing in-class activities, make sure they have as few physical requirements as possible.
  • Vary the types of activities used in class, including large group work, small group work, and individual work.
  • Create opportunities for students to present their in-class work in a variety of ways.


  • Use a series of lower-stakes assignments that allow students to use a variety of skill sets.
  • Diversify assessments to include options beyond papers and exams. Consider incorporating visual and audio media, presentations, and makers-based projects, for example.
  • OR have multiple choices of presentation medium for each assignment, like writing a paper, making a video, or creating an infographic.

Additional Resources


  1. UDL on Campus
  2. University of Washington DO-IT Center for Universal Design in Education
  3. CAST
  4. Collaborative on Postsecondary Education and Disability, University of Connecticut


  1. Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., Gordon, D. (2014). Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST.
  2. Tobin, T.J. & Behling, K.T. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.
  3. Burgstahler, S.E., Ed. (2017). Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.
  4. Zaloudek, J.A., Chandler, R., Carlson, K., Howarton, R., Eds. (2018). Universal Design for Learning: Teaching to All College Students. Menomonie, WI: Nakatani Teaching and Learning Center, University of Wisconsin-Stout.
  5. Oslund, C. (2014). Supporting College and University Students with Invisible Disabilities: A Guide for Faculty and Staff Working With Students With Autism, AD/HD, Language Processing Disorders, Anxiety, and Mental Illness. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  6. Meeks, L.M. & Jain, N.R., Eds. (2016). The Guide to Assisting Students with Disabilities: Equal Access in Health Science and Professional Education. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
  7. Dolmage, J.T. (2017). Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Developed by Center for Faculty Excellence, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reprinted with permission.

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