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VII Use of UDL for Assessment

Page history last edited by Michael Stoehr 10 years, 2 months ago

Universal Design

Universal design is a generic term describing design that is intended to “simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost” (Center for Universal Design, 1997). The basic idea behind universal design is that environments and products should be designed, right from the start, to meet the needs of all users rather than just an "average" user. In architecture, universal design has become well accepted. It is now routine to include ramps, curb cuts, and automatic doors in new construction because it is more efficient to design structures that are usable by as many people as possible from the beginning instead of adapting a building for diverse users later.


The concept has also been applied in fields other than architecture. For example, television captioning was first only available to those who purchased expensive decoder boxes. Later, decoder chips were built into all televisions, making captions universally available. Although designed for individuals with hearing impairments, captioning has proved to be popular with many users such as patrons of noisy restaurants, airports, and health clubs; English language learners; parents with reading-ready children who watch TV; and couples who have a TV set in their bedrooms yet want to go to sleep at different times.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a term used by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to describe its work on curriculum design and access to curricula. Just as universal designs in architecture benefit all users, UDL benefits all students. The aim is to create curricula that are flexible enough to challenge the most gifted students, students struggling below grade level, and everyone in between. It does this by providing students with alternative ways to explore content, using multiple approaches at various levels of complexity. The goal is to meet each student at his or her current ability level, allowing him or her to advance to more challenging content at an individual pace. Because flexibility is built into the curriculum and the environment, UDL helps each student to participate and succeed even when a teacher is less familiar with the individual needs of each student.


Universal Design and Students with Disabilities

For students with disabilities, this approach has great potential. Students with disabilities, whether sensory, physical, emotional, or cognitive, may need alternative ways of accessing and processing information. UDL is a strategy schools can use to provide students with disabilities with access to more challenging course content; meet the legal requirements of IDEA; master state content standards; and develop the academic, study, and interpersonal skills needed to succeed in postsecondary education and employment.

How does is it work? Universally designed instructional materials and activities present students with a range of options for learning. Alternative activities allow individuals with wide differences in their abilities—to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, pay attention, organize, engage, or remember—to achieve learning goals. Information is presented to students through multiple means such as audio, video, text, speech, Braille, photographs, or images. Likewise, UDL allows students to use multiple means to express what they know through writing, speaking, drawing, or video recording.

Advances in technology have made some universal design strategies much easier to implement. Teachers have access to computers, software, assistive technology, and other tools that can adapt the curriculum to suit a child's learning style. For example, textbooks and other reading materials can be made available in a digital format that includes audio, captions, and audio descriptions of visual images and charts.


However, UDL is not only about including technology in the classroom. During the last 20 years researchers have identified a number of effective strategies that teachers can use to help all students in their classroom. The Institute for Academic Access, for example, provides information in its online library about strategies that teachers can use to help students of diverse abilities improve important academic skills such as understanding concepts, organizing information, and detecting and correcting errors in their written work.


NCSET Parent Brief: Promoting Effective Parent Involvement in Secondary Education and Transition; April 2005 (http://www.ncset.org/publications/viewdesc.asp?id=2165)


Universal Design Resources

The following resources were developed, presented and shared by Fran G. Smith, Ed.D at the 2009 PA Community on Transition Conference, July 23, 2009, during her keynote presentation: Promoting Equal Access for All Youth through Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning.   



1. Universal Design & Universal Design for Learning.ppt 


















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