There is a growing awareness of the need to be inclusive in different spheres of society, including education. You may have heard the terms “universal design,” “universal design in education,” and “universal design for learning,” or their abbreviations UD, UDE and UDL. Do you know what these terms actually mean and how they differ? Here’s the answer!

Universal Design (UD)

Originating from the concept of universal design in architecture, universal design is a conceptual framework that has spread to all fields of activity. The United Nations defined it in Article 2 of its Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as “the design of products, facilities, programs and services that can be used by everyone, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or special design.”

This universal concept has been adapted in the world of education in two forms*:

Universal Instructional Design (UID)

UID is a framework that guides teachers in applying the principles of universal design in their teaching and in implementing strategies to reduce barriers to learning for learners and to provide opportunities for them to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

UDL is a more specific application of UD and UDE in that it establishes specific guidelines for curriculum design. It is an approach to teaching that aims to meet the needs of each learner in a classroom. UDL is also intended to be a framework for improving and optimizing teaching and learning for all based on scientific knowledge about how humans learn.

*These variations were defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology, a U.S. non-profit educational research and development organization.
Catherine Meilleur

Catherine Meilleur

Communication Strategist and Senior Editor @KnowledgeOne. Questioner of questions. Hyperflexible stubborn. Contemplative yogi

Catherine Meilleur has over 15 years of experience in research and writing. Having worked as a journalist and educational designer, she is interested in everything related to learning: from educational psychology to neuroscience, and the latest innovations that can serve learners, such as virtual and augmented reality. She is also passionate about issues related to the future of education at a time when a real revolution is taking place, propelled by digital technology and artificial intelligence.