On May 4, 2010, Maryland's Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Universal Design for Learning bill (HB 59/SB 467) into law. This bill establishes a state-level UDL Task Force to explore the incorporation of UDL principles into the State's education systems. Maryland’s HB 59/SB 467 marks the first state level UDL bill in the nation.
The U.S. Department of Education has released a new National Educational Technology Plan that guides the use of information and communication technologies in transforming American education. The Plan provides a set of concrete goals that can inform state and local educational technology plans as well as inspire research, development, and innovation.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework for reducing barriers and maximizing learning opportunities for all students, is referred to throughout that Plan to ensure that technology be used to optimize the diversity of learners. In an effort to model UDL, a UDL excerpt of the National Educational Technology Plan has been created. The excerpt uses pages 14 through 18 of the report to demonstrate many UDL features.
Though early drafts of the Common Core Standards explicitly endorsed UDL (and cited the statutory definition from the Higher Education Act), the final draft does not use the term. The authors removed this reference presumably because certain critics of early drafts argued that the Standards should not prescribe the means of instruction, only the goals of instruction.
CAST had argued that it would be counter-productive to issue Standards meant for all learners without an explicit reminder of the need for those implementing the Standards to take all learners into consideration from the outset (i.e., to "universally design curriculum for learning").
However, the principles of UDL are still supported in the standards, and that--more than the nomenclature--is most important. In particular, the introduction to the ELA standards states:
"...all students must have the opportunity to learn and meet the same high standards if they are to access the knowledge and skills necessary in their post–high school lives. ... The Standards should also be read as allowing for the widest possible range of students to participate fully from the outset ...."
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008, passed with strong bipartisan support, established the statutory definition for universal design for learning. This definition incorporates the three principles of UDL-representation, expression, and engagement-and emphasizes reducing barriers with appropriate supports and challenges built into instruction.
In addition to defining UDL, HEOA emphasized that pre-service training through teacher education programs incorporate instruction on strategies consistent with UDL. If future teachers are taught the principles of UDL, they will be able to better meet the diverse needs of their future students.
The National UDL Task Force-representing more than two dozen general education, special education, and civil rights organizations-led the effort to include an additional definition of UDL and specific provisions for its implementation in the statute. In doing so, the Task Force made the convincing case that UDL was more than just UD applied to educational materials-that the emphasis on learning required considerations encompassing instructional goals, assessments, and methods as well as materials. Furthermore, the Task Force emphasized that more than just physical access to educational environments and materials were at stake-that fair and equal opportunities for learning are owed to those with learning disabilities, cognitive and intellectual challenges, English language learners, learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, and others who might otherwise be marginalized in the one-size-fits-all classroom.
The inclusion of UDL in HEOA indicates a federal recognition of the potential for UDL to improve practice in classrooms and provide opportunities for students to succeed. With NCLB and IDEA up for reauthorization, the inclusion of UDL in HEOA establishes a strong foundation for UDL to be incorporated in these K-12 policies.
In a landmark announcement for students with sensory and other print disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education endorsed the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), version 1.0, on July 27th, 2004. This version was developed in 2002–2004 by the National File Format Technical Panel, which was comprised of forty technology specialists, educators, disability advocates, and publishers, and is based on the DAISY/NISO Z39.86 (DAISY 3) specification. This voluntary standard guides the production and electronic distribution of flexible digital instructional materials, such as textbooks, so that they can be more easily converted to Braille, text-to-speech, and other accessible formats.
The final NIMAS was published on July 19, 2006 (71 FR 41084) and was included as Appendix C to Part 300—National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard—published on August 14, 2006.
Last Updated: 07/10/2011