What is Universal Design for Learning?
From Kairos, the authors of “Multimodality in Motion: Disability and Kairotic Spaces” provide the most succinct definition:
“Universal design is a process, a means rather than an end. There’s no such thing as a universally designed text. There’s no such thing as a text that meets everyone’s needs.”
Developed within the purview of disability studies, Universal Design for Learning acknowledges that individuals possess unique learning needs and accessibility requirements. It is a proactive process that seeks to provide multiple means of engagement for a wide variety of students and their specific learning styles.
See it in action; Universal Design at McGill University:
For me, UDL means making myself and my classes as accessible to my students as possible. It has meant a fundamental restructuring of my personal pedagogy, and it has entailed a reconsideration of ability in the context of university education. It means providing options for assignment completion and classroom participation, as well as opportunities for feedback. It means accepting both the flaws and potentialities of humanity, and it means recognizing the diversity of students’ physical, mental, and creative needs.
UDL does not mean the perfect classroom, but it does mean that we are trying, that we are willing to establish a dialogue on disability and access with our students and amongst our academic peers.
- This audio file from NPR illustrates why a paradigm shift is needed. Students with mental disabilities are too often excluded from university settings altogether (transcript also available).