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How Does UDL Address Curricular Disabilities?

The usual process for making existing curricula more accessible is adaptation of curricula so that they are more accessible to all learners. Often, teachers themselves are forced to make difficult attempts at adapting inflexible “one-size-fits-all” curricular elements that were not designed to meet the variability of individual learners. The term Universal Design for Learning 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 designed with the principles of UDL, the difficulties and expenses of subsequent “retrofitting” and adaptation of “disabled” curricula can be reduced or eliminated–and a better learning environment can be implemented.

The challenge is not to modify or adapt curricula for a special few, but to do so effectively and from the start. Considerable research already exists that identifies the effective evidence-based practices for learners presently “in the margins”. Unfortunately, these best practices have not been available to all learners, and typically are offered only after learners have already failed in mainstream curricula. They are often then provided in separate remedial or special placements where ties to the general curriculum and its high standards have been severed entirely. A UDL curriculum provides the means to repair those severed ties, and promote the inclusion of all learners.

Last Updated: 02/01/2011

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