Understanding Universal Design

Blond-headed student enthusiastically raises her hand in class.September 2010 | Links updated, May 2013
A legacy resource from NICHCY

According to CAST, universal design is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.  Designing instruction with UDL in mind involves three main principles:

  1. Providing multiple means of Representation
  2. Providing multiple means of Action and Expression
  3. Providing multiple means of Engagement (National UDL Center, 2010)

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.

There’s a lot to know about universal design (UD), and visiting the resources we’ve listed on this page will lead you into the thick of things, connect you with the current knowledge base on UD and why it’s important, and give you tools for incorporating UD into your frame of teaching (and learning) reference.

Excellent overview.
Visit CAST for this overview, which will tell you UD principles and why UD is important.

National UDL Center.
Visit the National UDL Center, for sure! There, you can learn the basics, find out what the research has to say about UD, connect with other stakeholders in the field, read the UDL guidelines, and find teacher-friendly examples and resources to use in your classroom.

A model lesson plan. Tools to build your own.
Have a look at a model lesson plan using UDL principles. Build lesson plans of your own.

Multimedia online book of “secrets.”
Visit the multimedia online book called Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning, at:

Online professional development module.
This online pmodule examines the three principles of UDL and discusses how to apply these principles to the four curricular components (i.e., goals, instructional materials, instructional methods, and assessments).

A Parent Guide to UDL.
This free e-book from the National Center on Learning Disabilities can help parents learn the basics about the UDL approach.

This may seem like a very short list of resources, but we guarantee that the materials, videos, lesson plans, and examples of the experts above are the cream of the crop on UDL.

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