Digital Accessibility and UDL

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework emphasizes the importance of creating a teaching approach that caters to the diverse needs and abilities of all learners. While accessibility accommodations address the specific needs of individual students, the three principles of the UDL framework aim at supporting teachers to identify and remove potential barriers to learning for all students.

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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing educational environments that are accessible and effective for all learners, regardless of their individual differences. The framework is based on three principles:

1. The principle of multiple means of engagement focuses on engaging learners in different ways to enhance their interest and engagement. It suggests that teachers provide multiple opportunities to motivate learners and capture their attention and interest (CAST, 2023a)

2. The principle of multiple means of representation involves providing learners with different ways of accessing information and demonstrating knowledge. It suggests that teachers offer multiple options for presenting information in different formats, such as text, audio, or visuals, to accommodate learners' different learning styles, preferences, and abilities (CAST, 2023b)

3. The principle of multiple means of action and expression focuses on providing learners with multiple ways to demonstrate their learning and express themselves. It suggests that teachers offer learners various options for responding to the content and learning activities. An important aspect of this principle is that it supports students in developing strategies for planning, organizing, and remembering information in different ways (CAST 2023c)

While UDL and accessibility share similar goals of providing inclusive learning environments, they approach the challenge of designing inclusive environments in different ways. UDL focuses on designing flexible and adaptable learning environments, while accessibility focuses on designing environments that are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The ultimate goal of UDL is to develop expert learners (Black & Moore, 2019)

Accessibility is a legal obligation under disability rights laws such the Swedish law on accessibility in digital public service (Lag om tillgänglighet i digital offentlig service, 2018) and it involves ensuring that all students have equal access to learning materials, technologies, and environments. Accessibility must be achieved both through using platforms that are adapted to accessibility standards (see KI’s appraisal of Canvas here), and through users of the system making simple adaptations to their practice (see linked resources further down the page).

CAST, or the Center for Applied Special Technology, is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to advancing the principles of UDL through research, development, and outreach.  CAST provides a range of tools, resources, and professional development opportunities for educators and researchers who are interested in implementing UDL in their work.

Recommended resources


  1. Black, J., & Moore, E. J. (2019). UDL Navigators in Higher Education : a Field Guide. CAST Professional Publishing. DOI
  2. CAST. (2023a). Engagement. UDL Guidelines.
  3. CAST. (2023b). Representation. UDL Guidelines.
  4. CAST (2023c). Action & Expression. UDL Guidelines
  5. Lag om tillgänglighet till digital offentlig service (2018:1937). Lag om tillgänglighet till digital offentlig service (SFS 2018:1937). Finansdepartementet.…
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Carina Bois

Educational Technologist
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