Universal Design for Learning and Digital Accessibility: Compatible partners or a conflicted marriage?

Universal design for learning (UDL) and digital accessibility both seek to increase learning access and reduce barriers for students. As such, their primary goals are compatible and are widely acknowledged as crucial to ensuring equity in education. Indeed, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) recognized their importance, ranking UDL and accessibility together as the No. 2 Key Issue in Teaching and Learning for 2018. However, while the intent of the two frameworks is the same, their scope and methods often vary considerably, which—when coupled with external influences—creates challenges and conflicts in their otherwise compatible aims.

UDL is a teaching and course-development framework that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL emphasizes flexible approaches to instruction and content presentation, which make it easier for students to customize and adjust content to suit their individual learning needs. While UDL aims at a broad range of learners, digital accessibility focuses on learners who have particular needs related to sensory, physical, and/or cognitive impairments. This often involves coupling content presentations with accommodations to make them accessible to all users—for example, providing text versions of image-based content, which allows a screen reader to interpret that content for students with visual impairments.

[ Read the full article at EDUCAUSE Review. ]

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