UDL Talking Points

How can you be an accessibility advocate in your daily work? Borrow our language to explain the simple concepts of UDL and accessibility to those around you.

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) involves a proactive process of designing learning experiences in order to achieve the highest level of functionality and positive user experience for the widest audience possible (Burgstahler and Cory, 2008). In order for UDL to be effective, it requires purposeful consideration and strategy in all areas of course planning and design. The end result will be online learning that allows students to access, interact, and learn in a variety of ways, addressing the learning styles and learning needs of a wide variety of students.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility refers to the ability of a device, product, service, or environment to be usable by students with vision, auditory, motor, and cognitive disabilities. This is an important aspect of Universal Design for Learning and they often go hand in hand. Often accessibility is considered when integrating technology into the learning environment.

What are the benefits to designing with UDL and accessibility in mind?


  • One of our key initiatives at OSU is to provide affordability and access. Access inherently includes those with vision, auditory, motor, and cognitive disabilities. To design a course with accessibility in mind is in direct alignment with the mission of OSU.
  • OSU believes in community support and outreach. In online courses, that community extends beyond Columbus, OH and into any area where we have students. By designing a course with accessibility in mind, we are providing valuable educational experiences for all students in communities that may otherwise be underserved.

Financial Implications

  • Universal Design for Learning has proven to show positive results for retention and engagement.
    • Students are more likely to stay where they feel they are valued and included.
  • Lack of accessibility and universal design in the course environment sends a message about how the faculty, the department, and the university feels about diverse students (niu.edu, 2014).
  • Online students are looking for a program that meets their unique needs and the more we can address that the more likely these students will be to enroll.
  • Students who have had positive learning experiences will be more likely to tell their family, coworkers, and friends about their program at OSU, increasing enrollment through word of mouth.
  • Lawsuits can result in large fines and negative press.
  • Being proactive to design for UDL and accessibility saves hefty time and resources used when responding reactively to student needs.
  • Designing for UDL and accessibility give OSU a competitive advantage over competing schools and programs that have not yet integrated UDL principles.

Professional Implications

  • UDL and accessibility are becoming more and more important in design. While the law supports accessibility, UDL is supported by a growing wealth of research that indicates its value to student learning. Designing with these in mind now will make your course future-proof and re-usable for a longer time to come.
  • Many in academia are searching for best practices and examples of application for UDL. You have an opportunity to stand out as a leader and present to your peers on the benefits, best practices, and overall application.
  • By learning about best practices for UDL and accessibility, you can increase the breadth of your professional knowledge of design, include this in your resume/CV, and overall become more marketable.


Burgstahler, S.E., & Cory, R.C. (Eds.) (2008). Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Tucker, M. (2014). Universal design for engagement and retention in student affairs. Retrieved from http://www.niu.edu/stuaff/division_employee_resources/PresentationsPublications/Conference-Style%20Program%202014/Universal_Design_in_Student_Affairs_5-21-14.pdf