Universal Design: Products/Environments vs. Learning

Design for Access to Product/Environment

Design for Access to Curriculum
(Universal Design for Learning)

Means of Access/Engagement

Means of Access/Engagement

Product or environment must be usable by all people (to the greatest extent possible) without need for additional adaptation; e.g., curb cuts provide access to those in wheelchairs and all other pedestrians. Curriculum must be usable by all students (disabled and non-disabled) without need for additional adaptations ("add-ons") by teacher; e.g., electronic encyclopedia offers visual and auditory supports, differing levels of detailed information, cross-referencing.



User controls all access, needs little or no help from others to use; design of product/ environment enables self-sufficiency and independence. Student controls means of access but teacher monitors progress and may activate certain features; curriculum design enables student's self-sufficiency, but teacher remains active in teaching, facilitating, and assessing student's work.



Minimized, if not eliminated. Barriers to access are broken down as much as possible. The best designs provide the easiest and broadest access. Some cognitive challenge must remain. Barriers to access are broken down but right kinds and amounts of challenge must remain so that each student must push him- or herself. If access is too easy, no learning will take place.

Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.

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