Module 8: Accessibility

Universal Design for Learning | Accessibility | Assignment & Discussion

Learning Outcomes:

  • Recognize basic Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles
  • Know the basics of making a Word document accessible
  • Find other City College and CUNY accessibility resources
  • Understand why accessibility matters
  • Tell if a PDF is accessible

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

This section will cover the basics of Universal Design for Learning and its importance and implementation in the college classroom.

What is UDL?

UDL is a principle of curriculum design that provides all students with equal opportunities to learn regardless of ability, disability, age, gender, and cultural or linguistic background.

Watch UDL in Higher Education from CAST

UDL makes learning better for everyone, not just those who need accommodations. An example of universal design in everyday life is seen in the curb cut pictured below. The curb cut doesn’t just make it easier for people in wheelchairs to use the sidewalk, but also individuals with limited mobility (temporary or permanent), mothers with strollers, delivery personnel with carts and dollies, people on bikes/roller-blades/skateboards, and more.

Someone sitting in a wheel chair using a curb cut

UDL in the Classroom

The UDL Guidelines (2012), whose foundation includes over 800 peer reviewed research articles, provide benchmarks that guide educators in the development and implementation of UDL curriculum. These Guidelines serve as a tool with which to critique and minimize barriers inherent in curriculum as educators aim to increase opportunities to learn. — About UDL from CAST, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The UDL Guidelines are set up in columns (principles, left to right: engagement, representation, action & expression) and rows (top to bottom: access, build, internalize) with the goal of UDL (expert learners). Principle: Provide multiple means of engagement. Illustration of a brain with the center of the brain highlighted to show the affective networks: the “WHY” of learning. Guideline: Provide options for recruiting interest. Checkpoints: Optimize individual choice and autonomy, Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity, Minimize threats and distractions. Guideline: Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence. Checkpoints: Heighten salience of goals and objectives, Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge, Foster collaboration and community, Increase mastery-oriented feedback. Guideline: Provide options for self regulation. Checkpoints: Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation, Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies, Develop self-assessment and reflection. Principle: Provide multiple means of representation. Illustration of a brain with the back of the brain highlighted to show the recognition networks: the “WHAT” of learning. Guideline: Provide options for perception. Checkpoints: Offer ways of customizing the display of information, Offer alternatives for auditory information, Offer alternatives for visual information. Guideline: Provide options for language and symbols. Checkpoints: Clarify vocabulary and symbols, Clarify syntax and structure, Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols, Promote understanding across languages, Illustrate through multiple media. Guideline: Provide options for comprehension. Checkpoints: Activate or supply background knowledge, Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships, Guide information processing and visualization, Maximize transfer and generalization. Principle: Provide multiple means of action & expression. Illustration of a brain with the front of the brain highlighted to show the strategic networks: the "HOW" of learning. Guideline: Provide options for physical action. Checkpoints: Vary the methods for response and navigation, Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies. Guideline: Provide options for expression and communication. Checkpoints: Use multiple media for communication, Use multiple tools for construction and composition, Build fluencies with graduated levels of support for practice and performance. Guideline: Provide options for executive functions. Checkpoints: Guide appropriate goal-setting, Support planning and strategy development, Facilitate managing information and resources, Enhance capacity for monitoring progress. The "access" row of the UDL Guidelines includes: Provide options for recruiting interest (engagement), Provide options for perception (representation), and Provide options for physical action (action & expression). The “build” row of the UDL Guidelines includes: Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence (engagement), Provide options for language and symbols (representation), and Provide options for expression and communication (action & expression). The “internalize” row of the UDL Guidelines includes: Provide options for self regulation (engagement), Provide options for comprehension (representation), and Provide options for executive functions (action & expression). The goal of UDL is expert learners who are: purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed.Download plain text of the image above.

According to CUNY’s Accessibility training, UDL practices of instruction include:

    • A syllabus statement inviting students to meet with the instructor to discuss learning needs

    • Multiple delivery and assessing methods that motivate and engage all learners

    • Examples that appeal to students with a variety of characteristics with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, disability, and interest

    • Regular, accessible, and effective interactions between students and the instructor

    • Allowing students to turn in parts of a large project for feedback before the final project is due

    • Awareness of processes and resources for disability-related accommodations

UDL Checklist

Use this UDL Checklist as you create your course to help you follow best practices. Remember, though, that this checklist is a general guideline, and depending on your course and its learning outcomes some of these may not apply to your situation. Use your judgement on which of these best practices to adopt.

UDL builds flexibility into the classroom. By providing students with multiple personalized reasons to engage with knowledge, multiple ways to access that knowledge, and multiple ways to demonstrate what they've learned, we can increase student success.

Read About UDL from CAST (optional)