Universal Design of Instruction (UDI): Definition, Principles, Guidelines, and Examples (2023)

Precollege and college students come from avariety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. Forsome, English is not their first language. Alsorepresented in most classes are students with adiversity of ages and learning preferences, includingvisual and auditory. In addition, increasingnumbers of students with disabilities are includedin regularprecollege and postsecondary courses.Their disabilities include those that are relatedto sight, hearing, mobility, learning, socialinteractions, and health.Students are in school to learn and instructorsshare this goal. How can educators designinstruction to maximize the learning of allstudents? Universal design of instruction(UDI) can provideaframework for inclusive teaching and learning materials and pedagogy. You canapply this body of knowledge to create coursesthat ensure lectures, discussions, visual aids, videos, printed materials, labs, and fieldworkare accessible to, usable by, and inclusive of allstudents.

Universal Design

Designing any product or environment involves the consideration of many factors, including aesthetics, engineering options, environmental issues, industry standards, safety concerns, and cost. Often, products and environments are designed for the average user. In contrast, UD is defined by Romane and Center for Universal Design (CUD) at North Carolina State University as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design”. When designers apply UD principles, their products and environments meet the needs of potential users with diverse characteristics that include disabilities.

Making a product or environment accessible to people with disabilities often benefits others. For example, sidewalk curb cuts, designed to make sidewalks and streets accessible to those using wheelchairs, are today often used by kids on skateboards, parents with baby strollers, and delivery staff with rolling carts. When television displays in noisy areas of airports and restaurants are captioned, they are more accessible to people who are deaf and everyone else.

Universal Design of Instruction (UDI): Definition, Principles, Guidelines, and Examples (1)

(Video) Universal Design for Learning (Part 2): UDL Guidelines

UDI Definition, Principles and Guidelines

A definition that can be used for the applications to teaching and learning (i.e. UDI), modified from the basic definition of UD, is the design of teaching and learning products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

At Center for Universal Design (CUD), at North Carolina State University, a group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers established seven principles of UD to provide guidance in the design of all products and environments. CUD’s principles of UD are listed below. They are followed by an example and application to instruction.

  1. Equitable use. The design is useful andmarketable to people with diverse abilities.Example: A professor’s website is designedso that it is accessible to everyone, includingstudents who are blind and using text-to-speech software.

  2. Flexibility in use. The design accommodatesa wide range of individual preferences andabilities. Example: A museum that allows visitors tochoose to read or listen to a description of thecontents of display cases.

  3. Simple and intuitive use. Use of the design iseasy to understand, regardless of the user’sexperience, knowledge, language skills, orcurrent concentration level. Example: Controlbuttons on science equipment are labeled withtext and symbols that are easy to understand.
  4. Perceptible information. The designcommunicates necessary informationeffectively to the user, regardless of ambientconditions or the user’s sensory abilities.Example: A video presentation projected in acourse includes captions and audio description.

  5. Tolerance for error. The design minimizeshazards and the adverse consequences ofaccidental or unintended actions. Example:Educational software provides guidance andbackground information when the studentmakes an inappropriate response.

  6. Low physical effort. The design can be usedefficiently, comfortably, and with a minimumof fatigue. Example: Doors to a lecture hallopen automatically for everyone.

  7. Size and space for approach and use. Appropriatesize and space is provided for approach, reach,manipulation, and use regardless of the user’sbody size, posture, or mobility. Example: Aflexible science lab work area has adequateworkspace for students who areleft- or right-handed and for those who need to work froma standing or seated position.

    (Video) Universal Design for Learning (Part 1): Definition and Explanation

A related, but more specific application, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), provides specific guidance for designing curricula that enables all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all. UDL guidelines, developed by Center for Applied Special Techonology (CAST), promote the development of curriculum that includes:

  1. multiple means of representation,
  2. multiple means of action and expression, and
  3. multiple means of engagement.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)4can be used to ensure that IT used for instructionalpractice is accessible and usablefor students withdisabilities. They are supported by a foundation offour principles, resulting in IT that is

  1. perceivable,
  2. operable,
  3. understandable, and
  4. robust.

UDI embraces UD, UDL, WCAG principles and applies them to all aspects of instruction, including physical spaces, curriculum, pedagogy, and IT. UDI ensures that students have multiple ways to learn, engage and demonstrate what they have learned. UDI also ensures that each UDI practice is accessible, usable, and inclusive.

UDI Examples

To apply UDI, instructors should consider the potential variation in individual skills, learning styles and preferences, age, gender, sexual orientation, culture, abilities, and disabilities as they select appropriate content and strategies for the delivery of instruction and then apply universal design to all course activities and resources.

The UD, UDL, and WCAG principles that underpin UDI can be applied to the overall design of instruction as well as to specific instructional materials, facilities, and strategies (such as lectures, classroom discussions, group work, web-based instruction, labs, field work, and demonstrations). Listed below are examples of UDI. They are organized under eight performance indicator categories, with a general

(Video) Using Universal Design

Universal Design of Instruction (UDI): Definition, Principles, Guidelines, and Examples (3)

guidelinefor each. Numbers in brackets at the end of each examples refer to UD, UDL, and WCAG principles most relevant to the example.

  • Class climate. Adopt practices that reflect highvalues with respect to diversity, equity, andinclusion. Example: Put a statement on yoursyllabus inviting students to meet with you todiscuss disability-related accommodations andother special learning needs. [UD 1, UDL 2]
  • Interaction. Encourage regular and effectiveinteractions between students, employmultiple communication methods, and ensurethat communication methods are accessibleto all participants. Example: Assign groupwork for which learners must engage using avariety of skills and roles. [UD 1, 2, 4; UDL 3;WCAG]
  • Physical environments and products. For outsideinstruction, ensure that facilities, activities,materials, and equipment are physicallyaccessible to and usable by all students andthat diverse potential student characteristicsare addressed in safety considerations.Example: Develop safety procedures for allstudents, including those who are blind, deaf,or wheelchair users. [UD 3, 4, 6, 7]
  • Delivery methods. Use multiple instructionalmethods that are accessible to all learners.Example: Use multiple modes to delivercontent; when possible allow students tochoose from multiple options for learning;and motivate and engage students—considerlectures, collaborative learning options, hands-on activities, Internet-based communications,educational software, field work, and so forth.[UD 2–4; UDL 1–3; WCAG]
  • Information resources and technology. Ensure thatcourse materials, notes, and other informationresources are engaging, flexible, and accessiblefor all students. Example: Choose printedmaterials and prepare a syllabus early toallow students the option of beginning to readmaterials and work on assignments before thecourse begins. Allow adequate time to arrangefor alternate formats, such as books in audioformat. [UDL 1; WCAG]
  • Feedback and assessment. Regularly assessstudents’ progress, provide specific feedbackon a regular basis using multiple accessiblemethods and tools, and adjust instructionaccordingly. Example: Allow students to turnin parts of large projects for feedback beforethe final project is due. [UD 5; UDL 2, 3]
  • Accommodations. Plan for accommodationsfor students whose needs are not fully metby the instructional content and practices.Example: Know campus protocols for gettingmaterials in alternate formats, reschedulingclassroom locations, and arranging for otheraccommodations for students with disabilities.[UD 1, 2, 4, 6]

The last classification of UDI practices isimportant because employing UDI principlesdoes not eliminate the need for specificaccommodations for students with disabilities.For example, you may need to provide a signlanguage interpreter for a student who is deaf.However, applying UDI concepts in courseplanning ensures full access to the contentfor most students and minimizes the need forspecial accommodations. For example, designingweb resources in accessible formats as they aredeveloped means that no redevelopment is
necessary if a blind student enrolls in the class.

UDI benefits students with disabilities but alsobenefits others. For example, captioningcoursevideos, which provides access to deaf or hardof hearing students, is also a benefit to studentsfor whom English is a second language, tosome students with learning disabilities, and tothose watching the tape in a noisy environment.Delivering content in redundant ways canimprove instruction for students with a variety oflearning styles and cultural backgrounds. Lettingall students have access to your class notes andassignments on a website benefits students withdisabilities and everyone else. Planning aheadsaves time in the long run.

Universal Design of Instruction (UDI): Definition, Principles, Guidelines, and Examples (4)

(Video) Universal Design for Learning (Part 4): Representation Strategies


Consult the following resources for furtherinformation on UDI.

About DO-IT

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities,Internetworking, and Technology) serves toincrease the successful participation of individualswith disabilities in challenging academicprograms and careers, such as those in science,engineering, mathematics, and technology.Primaryfunding for DO-IT is provided bythe National Science Foundation, the Stateof Washington, and the U.S. Department ofEducation.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternateformat, or to make comments or suggestionsabout DO-IT publications or web pages, contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842

206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (toll free voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director:Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners


The Center for Universal Design in Educationas well as this publication were developedunder grants from the U.S. Department ofEducation, #P333A020042, #P333A020044,and #P333A050064. However, the contents donot necessarily represent the policy of the U.S.Department of Education, and you should notassume endorsement by the federal government.

(Video) 1C - Universal Design of Instruction

Copyright © 2020, 2015, 2012, 2010, 2008,2005, 2001, Sheryl Burgstahler. Permission isgranted to copy these materials for educational,noncommercial purposes provided the source isacknowledged.


What are the 3 principles of UDL with examples? ›

Three main principles of UDL
  • Representation: UDL recommends offering information in more than one format. ...
  • Action and expression: UDL suggests giving kids more than one way to interact with the material and to show what they've learned. ...
  • Engagement: UDL encourages teachers to look for multiple ways to motivate students.

What are the 3 Universal Design for Learning guidelines principles? ›

CAST developed UDL guidelines that are based on three main principles that align with these learning networks. The three UDL principles are engagement, representation, and action and expression.

What are examples of Universal Design? ›

Things like curb cuts, large, color contrasting fonts, and sloped entrances are all examples of universal design.

How do you apply UDL principles in the classroom? ›

7 Universal Design for Learning Examples and Strategies for the Classroom
  1. Know your students' strengths and weaknesses. ...
  2. Use digital materials when possible. ...
  3. Share content in a variety of ways. ...
  4. Offer choices for how students demonstrate their knowledge. ...
  5. Take advantage of software supports. ...
  6. Low and No Tech options do exist.
9 Aug 2018

What are the 4 components of the UDL? ›

Four highly interrelated components comprise a UDL curriculum: goals, methods, materials, and assessments.

What are the 7 principles of design define each principle? ›

The seven principles of art and design are balance, rhythm, pattern, emphasis, contrast, unity, and movement. Use the elements of art and design—line, shape/form, space, value, color, and texture—to create a composition as a whole. The elements of art and design are the tools of visual artists.

What are the 7 principles? ›

The 7 Principles of the Constitution (popular sovereignty, limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, judicial review, federalism, and republicanism) explained.

Why are UDL guidelines important? ›

Why is UDL important for education? The UDL approach offers guidelines for making informed decisions about what practices are optimal and ensures comprehensive instructional design practices that can address a full range of learning abilities and disabilities present in any group of students.

What is one example of Universal Design in a classroom? ›

Offer Multiple Means of Expression

Another way to use UDL in your classroom is to offer multiple means of expression. This means allowing students to express themselves in different ways. For example, you might allow students to use other forms of communication, such as speaking, writing, and drawing.

Who created the 7 principles of Universal Design? ›

The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by the late Ronald Mace in the North Carolina State University.

What are the main purposes of universal design? ›

Universal design means planning to build physical, learning and work environments so that they are usable by a wide range of people, regardless of age, size or disability status. While universal design promotes access for individuals with disabilities, it also benefits others.

What is an example of universal design for learning UDL? ›

One great example of universal design for learning is creating classroom routines that help students feel secure. While this helps adapt to students with disabilities such as autism, it's good for all students to get used to classroom routines.

What are 2 of the principles of universal design? ›

The basic principles of universal design

Here's a summary of the principles. Principle 1: Equitable Use. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. Principle 2: Flexibility in Use.

What are the 10 main principles of design? ›

There are 10 principles of design in total! They're also known as the elements of visual design, and are: movement, balance, contrast, proportion, repetition, rhythm, variety, emphasis, harmony, and unity.

What are the 5 basic principles of design? ›

Principles of design
  • Balance.
  • Alignment.
  • Proximity.
  • Repetition.
  • Contrast.
27 Feb 2019

What are the 8 key principles of design? ›

The eight principles of design every designer should know
  • Alignment. Making sure the elements of any design are aligned is essential. ...
  • Hierarchy. Hierarchy means putting your design's most important message or purpose front and center. ...
  • Contrast. ...
  • Repetition. ...
  • Proximity. ...
  • Balance. ...
  • Color. ...
  • Space.

What are the 4 basic principles of design rules? ›

Effective design centres on four basic principles: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. These appear in every design.

What are the six main principles of design? ›

Start with the six principles of design: balance, pattern, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, and unity. Just as instructional design models and methodologies shape your training strategy, so should these principles shape your basic visual strategy. By applying them, you can create high-impact visuals.

What are the 12 guiding principles? ›

The 12 Guiding Principles
  • The Primary Period.
  • Forming the Core Blueprint.
  • Continuum of Development.
  • Capacities & Capabilities.
  • Relationship.
  • Innate Need.
  • Communication.
  • Mother-Baby Interconnectedness.

What are principles examples? ›

Examples of principles are, entropy in a number of fields, least action in physics, those in descriptive comprehensive and fundamental law: doctrines or assumptions forming normative rules of conduct, separation of church and state in statecraft, the central dogma of molecular biology, fairness in ethics, etc.

What are the 13 guiding principles? ›

  • Restorative Justice.
  • Empathy.
  • Loving Engagement.
  • Diversity.
  • Globalism.
  • Queer Affirming.
  • Trans Affirming.
  • Collective Value.

What are the benefits of UDL to teachers? ›

UDL has benefits for both learners and educators. UDL has the capacity to make teaching and learning more inclusive and accessible for everyone. Educators who implement UDL often find: A reduction in the need for, and time required to arrange, individual learning and assessment accommodations.

Which are examples of the UDL principle provide multiple means of representation? ›

Provide Multiple Means of Representation

For example, those with sensory disabilities (e.g., blindness or deafness); learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia); language or cultural differences, and so forth may all require different ways of approaching content.

What is Universal Design for Learning and how does it apply to the inclusive classroom? ›

The definition of Universal Design for Learning is it: (A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and (B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and ...

Who benefits from Universal Design principles? ›

Applying universal design principles assists people with and without disabilities. For example, using clear and simple language and navigational mechanisms on web pages facilitates use by those whose native language is not the one in which the course is taught, as well as people with visual and learning disabilities.

What is Universal Design describe it and give one example? ›

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. An example is a museum that allows a visitor to choose to read or listen to the description of the contents of a display case. Simple and Intuitive Use.

What are the 7 principles of human computer interaction? ›

Norman's Seven Principles

Get the mapping right (User mental model = Conceptual model = Designed model). Convert constrains into advantages (Physical constraints, Cultural constraints, Technological constraints). Design for Error. When all else fails − Standardize.

How many Universal Design principles are there? ›

These seven principles may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process, and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

What are the three types of UDL assessments? ›

The three types of UDL assessments are:
  • Assessment for Learning. Also called formative assessments, these assessments happen on the spot, during a classroom activity, to assess how students are doing in the lesson. ...
  • Assessment of Learning. ...
  • Assessment as Learning.

Which are examples of the UDL principle provide multiple means of engagement? ›

For instance, a student who played or followed sports could research the athlete. Similarly, a student who enjoyed reading could research an author, while a student interested in science studied an inventor.

What is one example of universal design in a classroom? ›

Offer Multiple Means of Expression

Another way to use UDL in your classroom is to offer multiple means of expression. This means allowing students to express themselves in different ways. For example, you might allow students to use other forms of communication, such as speaking, writing, and drawing.

Why is UDL important in education? ›

Why is UDL important for education? The UDL approach offers guidelines for making informed decisions about what practices are optimal and ensures comprehensive instructional design practices that can address a full range of learning abilities and disabilities present in any group of students.

What are the examples of multiple representation? ›

Multiple representations include graphs and diagrams, tables and grids, formulas, symbols, words, gestures, software code, videos, concrete models, physical and virtual manipulatives, pictures, and sounds.

What are 2 of the principles of Universal Design? ›

The basic principles of universal design

Here's a summary of the principles. Principle 1: Equitable Use. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. Principle 2: Flexibility in Use.


1. Universal Design for Learning (Part 3): Engagement Strategies
(Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at OU)
2. Universal Design for Learning and Accessibility
(UA Technology Accessibility)
3. Universal Design for Learning Overview (Week 1)
4. The 7 Principles of Universal Design (Part 4 of Physical Barriers to PWD Inclusion) TAGALOG
(Loida Bauto)
5. Webinar: Universal Design
6. Universal Design for Learning (Part 6): Culturally Diverse Learners
(Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at OU)
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