4. How does UDL address and redress curricular disabilities?

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The usual process for making existing curricula more accessible is adaptation of curricula—and especially instructional materials and methods—so that they are more accessible to students. Often, teachers themselves are forced to make heroic attempts to adapt curricular elements that were not designed to meet the learning needs of diverse students. The term “universal design” is often mistakenly applied to such after-the-fact adaptations.

However, Universal Design for Learning refers to a process by which a curriculum (i.e., goals, methods, materials, and assessments) is intentionally and systematically designed from the beginning to address individual differences. With curricula that are universally designed, much of the difficulties of subsequent “retrofitting” and adaptation can be reduced or eliminated–and a better learning environment for all students can be implemented.

The challenge of diversity is not merely to differentiate the curriculum but to do so effectively. To do that, UDL depends upon identifying practices that have proven effective not just for the “average” student, if such a student exists, but for those students who are distinctly “not average”: students with disabilities, English language learners, students who have endured sub-optimal instruction in the past, students who are “gifted and talented,” students who are otherwise “in the margins.” Considerable research already exists that identifies evidence-based optimal practices for students presently in the margins. Unfortunately, these best practices have been sparsely available, typically provided only after students have already failed in the mainstream curriculum. They are subsequently provided in separate remedial or special placements where ties to the mainstream curriculum and its high standards have been severed entirely. A UDL curriculum provides the means to repair those severed ties.

While the best educators have found ways to differentiate curriculum for thousands of years, the field of UDL has benefited greatly from the recent advent of powerful digital technologies that make it possible to more easily and effectively customize or personalize curriculum for diverse students. Advances in technology and the learning sciences have made such “on-the-fly” individualization of curricula possible in practical, cost-effective ways. Furthermore, learning and demonstrating effective uses of new media is itself an important instructional outcome. New media dominate our culture in the workforce, communication, and entertainment. Every student now in school needs a much higher level of literacy than ever before, but also a literacy that is much broader and more inductive of the media of our culture.

Consequently, the UDL Guidelines make frequent references to technology options for implementing UDL.

One Response to 4. How does UDL address and redress curricular disabilities?

  1. Cam Caldwell says:

    I do not commonly use audio technology because it is rarely supported. Is this method realistic in online courses?

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