Office of Student Life

Universal Design

Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation of specialized design. The concept was coined by Ron Mace, an architect and faculty member who realized that in many cases, retrofitting a building or environment to be accessible could be eliminated if the full range of human diversity was taken into account in the design stage. Things like curb cuts, large, color contrasting fonts, and sloped entrances are all examples of universal design. See Disability Services' list of universal design examples.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal design for learning (UDL) is a set of guiding principles for course development that helps instructors to make their courses accessible for all students, regardless of learning differences. At the core of UDL is the provision of multiple means of representation action and expression, and engagement. View a poster summarizing UDL's guidelines. (Source)

Why not just provide accommodations for students with disabilities?

Courses that are created or revamped with UDL in mind are customized for all learners by design, virtually eliminating the need for retrofitting that is common with less flexible, “one-size-fits-all” courses.

"The goal of UDI is to maximize the learning of students with a wide range of characteristics by applying UD principles to all aspects of instruction (e.g., delivery methods, physical spaces, information resources, technology, personal interactions, assessments)." (Source.)

Of course, there will be situations in which individual accommodations are necessary. For example, a student who is D/deaf or Hard of Hearing may need interpreting or transcription services, and a student who is blind may need written materials converted to Braille. In any case, Student Life Disability Services is always available for consultation and collaboration.

Whether you’re new to the concept of universal design or looking for new ways to implement UDL in your classroom, the resources below should prove helpful.

Ohio State UDL Resources:

Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE):

General UDL Resources:

Course Design:

Utilizing Learning Management Systems (LMS):



Applying UDL to Distance Learning:

Case Studies:


How To:

Comprehensive Resources:

Supporting Research: