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What is Universal Design for Learning: Introduction

Dr. Christina Yuknis explains what is universal design for learning. This is a short introduction in ASL with English captions.
Screenshot from video shows Dr. Christina Yuknis explaining what is universal design for learning.

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Short video clip from Webcast: `Universal Design for Learning for Deaf Students`

What is universal design for learning? How can this concept help deaf students in hearing schools? Some classrooms teach in a way that helps some students but leaves other students confused. But teachers can avoid this problem by using universal design for learning. In this video, Dr. Christina Yuknis explains what is universal design for learning. It is a short introduction for people new to the concept.

This four-minute video clip is in American Sign Language (ASL) with captions in English. A transcript in English is also available. Meanwhile, this video clip was taken from a 38-minute webcast on universal design for learning for deaf students. Dr. Christina Yuknis explains how universal design for learning can help deaf and hearing students learn together. The full-length webcast, similar to the short clip, is in ASL with English captions. Or, a transcript in English is also available.

Also explore more resources on how to make education accessible for deaf students.

Click here to show & hide the transcript with descriptions

“What is Universal Design for Learning?

Image description: Dr. Christina Yuknis signs to the camera. Sometimes photos appear in the upper right corner. The photos show examples of universal design in architecture.

Transcript: “You may be wondering what is Universal Design for Learning, UDL for short.

“UDL is a concept that the education world has borrowed from architecture. In architecture, Universal Design means that buildings and spaces are created in a way that reduces barriers and allows use by the widest range of individuals. Two examples of universal design in architecture are ramps and automatic doors.

“Ramps can be used by people in wheelchairs, people with strollers, people on bikes and people with luggage. The image here shows an example of a set of stairs with a ramp integrated into the design. Automatic doors have the benefit of allowing people who use wheelchairs or walkers to enter a building without having to fuss with a button or a door handle. The barriers of door handles are even awkwardly positioned buttons or anything that calls out a person is different are removed by the simple design of having automatically opening doors.

What Does it Mean in Education?

“So educators saw this concept universal design reducing barriers and allowing use by the widest range of individuals and decided that it could be a useful way to think about how we design educational experiences for students. They identified three types of barriers; the way that classrooms are set up, the curriculum being taught and the methods used to teach the curriculum.

“So barriers in the physical space include having room for students who use wheelchairs or walkers to navigate, which is what most people think of. However there are other physical barriers such as how furniture is arranged, what type of furniture are present in the classroom such as couches, beanbags, only hard surfaces that just chairs or tables and the design, and the tone of the classroom. Is it warm and welcoming or is it cold and scary?

“Meanwhile, barriers in the curriculum includes standards, goals and objectives for which students are not prepared or have gaps in their background knowledge. Perhaps the pacing of the curriculum, it’s too fast and students can’t keep up or it’s too slow and students are bored. Basically how students are supported in learning the content.

How Do We Remove Barriers to Learning?

“Barriers and the methods are related to the strategies teachers use. For example many teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels use only lectures and tests. This approach is not effective for many students and thus if it is your only instructional method then there are barriers to learning for many students in your class.

“These barriers need to be removed in order to promote access to learning for students in your classroom just as universal design principles are applied right at the beginning of the process for creating a new building your space. UDL principles are applied at the beginning of planning for an instructional unit.”

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