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Applying Universal Design

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learningexternal link is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs (Center for Applied Special Technology,
Harvard University
external link).

Three primary brain networks come in to play during learning:

  • Recognition NetworksThe "what" of learning
    How we gather facts and categorize what we see, hear, and read. Identifying letters, words, or an author's style are recognition tasks.
    • Teaching approach: Present information and content in different ways
  • Strategic Networks—The "how" of learning
    Planning and performing tasks. How we organize and express our ideas. Writing an essay or solving a math problem are strategic tasks.
    • Teaching approach: Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know
  • Affective Networks—The "why" of learning
    How learners get engaged and stay motivated. How they are challenged, excited, or interested. These are affective dimensions.
    • Teaching approach: Stimulate interest and motivation for learning

Copyright © Center for Applied Special Technology, Harvard University

For more information:

Universal Design for Diversity

Adapt both sets of principles (Universal Designexternal link and Universal Design for Learningexternal link) to diversity characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity and race, native language, and culture.

  • Assess the prevalence of these characteristics in your organization, potential constituencies, audiences, and/or markets.
  • Create a diverse advisory group or several diversity affinity groups to help with planning.
  • Provide on-going briefings on diversity for organizational leaders and online training for others in the organization.
  • Evaluate and modify practices, based in significant part on internal feedback, as well as feedback from constituencies, audiences, and/or markets.

Universal Design for Event Planning

Universal design builds in the legal requirements gracefully and takes a broader approach—not “accommodations” but rather “designed-in” as routine elements of an event. Those planning events with universal design in mind routinely budget possible accommodation costs (e.g. sign language interpreter); routinely confirm accessibility, easy availability of assistive listening devices, etc.; and routinely use an accessibility checklist.

Additional Applications of Universal Design

The University of Washington’s DO-IT programexternal link provides additional information applying Universal Design in the areas of education; instruction; physical spaces and the technological environment; distance learning; libraries; student services; projects, conference exhibits, and presentations. Learn more about these additional applications of Universal Designexternal link.

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Last Updated: June 20, 2016