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Principle 5: Universal Design for Learning

Principle 5: Universal Design for Learning

Design and deliver all course elements for maximum accessibility to give every student equitable opportunities for success.

Summary and Rationale

Equitable course development recognizes that students have a diverse range of abilities, environments, and experiences and incorporates multiple means of learning and expression for these students. By prioritizing accessibility in a course, instructors design their course from the vantage point of multiple perspectives, creating learning experiences that can engage a diverse group of students. Developed by the CAST organization, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.

Research on student learning demonstrates that multi-modal access helps to improve learning outcomes for all students. Multi-modal access essentially means providing several pathways to access course material. By using Universal Design for Learning, all students can benefit from increased access to their course content, including many who are not registered to receive formal accommodations through the Disability Resource Center (DRC). Stigma, cost, and numerous other factors are barriers to registering with the DRC. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, all people are affected by changes to their environment, be it social or academic. Practicing UDL in courses means maximizing opportunities to learn by making room for a range of abilities and methods of expression. Following the principles of UDL, instructors go “beyond compliance” with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and aim to provide the maximum access to the greatest number of their students.


  • Work with the Montclair IT Dept, DRC, and other campus entities to stay current on assistive technologies and accessible formats. UDL strategies and technologies are constantly evolving.
  • Select accessible materials from the start, including software, apps and tools that supplement the delivery of course content.
  • Engage responsively and respectfully with official accommodations by working with students to support their needs for student success. Most accommodations provided (i.e. 2x time on tests) set a minimum standard for instructors, and should prompt instructors to engage directly with learners about their needs.
  • Seek student input on teaching strategies to discover individual strengths and needs, preferences for expression and engagement, and responses with the activities and assessments that you employ.
  • Make course materials accessible. For text-based documents, such as PDFs, assure they are accessible to screenreaders and use clear fonts and spacing. Use captions for all instructional video and audio content. Provide alternative information for any visual content (for example, audio or text-based descriptions of visual elements).
  • Consider utilizing a range of options for students to demonstrate course mastery. Avoid bias towards only one mode of expression (i.e. only accepting written work). Consider oral submissions, video submissions, class presentations, and other modes of demonstrating learning mastery.
  • Consider the ways in which students affectively engage with your course and provide multiple ways to engage that encourage individual interest, effort, persistence and self-regulation. 
  • Promote the use of American Sign Language (ASL), Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), and Audio Description (AD) in all Montclair sponsored presentations, events, activities.



  • Bridge Multimedia:
  • CAST, About Universal Design for Learning,
  • Doyle, Nancy. “We Have Been Disabled: How The Pandemic Has Proven The Social Model Of Disability,” Apr 29, 2020
  • Edelberg, Elisa. “Deep Dive: How Audio Description Benefits Everyone”, updated June 2019,
  • Kleege, Georgina and Wallen, Scott. “Audio Description as a Pedagogical Tool,” in DisabilityStudies Quarterly, Vol 35 (2), 2015.
  • Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice.
  • Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing. National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM):
  • Womack, A., Blanchard, A., Wang, C., & Jessee, M. (2015). Accessible syllabus. Retrieved March 18, 2021, from
  • Universal Design for Learning Guidelines from Center for Accessible Technology (CAST) CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from

Updated 07.21.22 SR