Inclusiveness and Universal Design for Learning

Educators and Policymakers Discuss Inclusiveness
and Universal Design for Learning



WASHINGTON—Students learn differently and require different tools and strategies to succeed. One way to eliminate learning barriers and roadblocks is to incorporate the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) from the outset. UDL is a research-based framework and set of principles to provide all students with opportunities to learn.


Recently, 230 policymakers and educators took part in an interactive symposium, Creating Great Public Schools for All Using UDL and Inclusive Practices, to learn more about inclusive education practices and Universal Design for Learning. The National Education Association and the Including Samuel Project at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire hosted the national event at NEA.

“As educators, we know that one size does not fit all when it comes to learning,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “We must make sure our students have the resources they need to succeed. With UDL, all students have an equal opportunity to learn. For example, using a digital text of a novel can help a student who struggles with reading and another who struggles with comprehension. The struggling reader could use the text reader feature, while the other student could click on words to get definitions and explanations of concepts.”


Symposium participants heard from experts who presented information on best practices and highlighted the most recent developments in UDL theory and implementation. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage with those on the leading edge of research and program development. In addition to gaining a greater understanding of how to create inclusive schools, participants walked away with a framework for promoting UDL and developing policies in their own organizations at the national, state and local levels. They also screened the award winning documentary, Including Samuel, which examines the educational and social inclusion of youth with disabilities.


There are three primary principles of UDL:

• It should provide multiple and flexible methods of classroom presentation to reach students with diverse learning styles.
• Students should have different ways of demonstrating what they have learned.
• UDL should provide multiple and flexible ways for educators to tap into diverse learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately and motivate them to learn.

“These principles are helpful for students who need special education services and those in the general education classroom,” added Van Roekel. “I am hopeful that the people who attended the symposium will incorporate these valuable elements into reaching and teaching diverse learners.”

National experts who participated in the symposium are Including Samuel director and producer Dan Habib; Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) co-founder Dr. David Rose; Director of the D.C. Department on Disability Services Judith Heumann; Project Director of the Institute on Disability Dr. Cheryl Jorgensen; University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor Dr. James Basham; National Board Certified Teacher Mary Jamison; and Associate Director of the National Down Syndrome Society Policy Center Ricki Sabia.

The event was co-sponsored by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Federation of Teachers, The ARC, CAST, Council of Chief State School Officers, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, IDEA Partnership, Institute for Educational Leadership, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Society, and the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Center at George Mason University.

For more information on Universal Design for Learning:

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