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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) & Accessibility for Faculty: Getting Started

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

Universal Design for Learning is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, it is a flexible approach that can be customized based on individual student needs: "UDL is an educational approach based on the learning sciences with three primary principles—multiple means of representation of information, multiple means of student action and expression, and multiple means of student engagement." (CAST)

What is Accessibility?


What is Accessibility?


Definitions from The National Center on Accessible Educational Materials

Accessibility Defined

Accessibility is shaped by what we need to do, our interactions with the environment, and our personal preferences. Educational materials and technologies are “accessible” to people with disabilities if they are able to:

  • acquire the same information, 
  • engage in the same interactions, 
  • and enjoy the same services 

In an equally effectiveequally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use” as people who do not have disabilities (Joint Letter US Department of Justice and US Department of Education, June 20, 2010, as cited by the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials). 

“Is it accessible?”—guiding questions 

Accessibility can be complex in practice and can be overwhelming at times. What is accessible to someone with a visual disability may not be accessible to someone with a learning disability. Not only do we need to ask ourselves “is it accessible?” We should also be asking:

  • To whom is it accessible?
  • Under what conditions is it accessible?
  • For which tasks is it accessible?

Asking these questions can help guide us when designing a course and creating content and materials. 

Understanding terms used in educational settings

Accessible educational materials (AEM) 

Accessible educational materials are print- and technology-based educational materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and related core materials that are designed or enhanced in a way that makes them useable across the widest range of learner variability, regardless of format (e.g., print, digital, graphic, audio, video).

Accessible formats

Accessible formats provide the same information in another form to address the barriers text-based materials can present for some learners. Examples of accessible formats include audio, braille, large print, tactile graphics, and digital text conforming with accessibility standards. 

Accessible technologies

Accessible technologies are the hardware devices and software that provide learners with access to the content in accessible digital materials. These technologies are designed to be flexible and provide supports that benefit everyone – they are universally designed. 

Assistive technologies

Assistive technologies are designed to address specific barriers learners with disabilities may face when they interact with their materials. Examples of assistive technology include text-to-speech, screen readers and speech recognition. Assistive technology services assist learners with disabilities in selecting, acquiring and using the assistive technologies that are the best match for them. In practice, the line between what is accessible and assistive technology can become blurred, especially as more assistive technology is included as built-in accessibility features on the consumer devices many learners and families already own.

More from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials



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Ashlynn Maczko
She, her, hers
Weaver Library, A112
Great Falls College MSU
2100 16th Ave S.
Great Falls, MT, 59405