What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)? How can UDL support a truly inclusive education system? What kind of the evidence is available on how UDL has helped implement an inclusive education system?

These are some of the questions that the Technical Paper on UDL by the International Disability Alliance (IDA) aims to address. This Technical Paper, produced under the guidance of the IDA Inclusive Education Flagship Initiative and led by the IDA Inclusive Education Task Team, follows the adoption of the IDA consensus position on Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2019 and the first IDA Global Report on Inclusive Education published in June 2020.

As part of its second phase of work on inclusive education, IDA is focusing on enhancing its consensus position with more evidence of good practices on key areas in inclusive education. UDL had emerged as a key concept that needed more deliberation from organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) during the workshops and consultations preceding the drafting of the IDA Global Report on Inclusive Education. This paper intends to address some of the points from that consultative process.

The paper states that while UDL is a critical component of inclusive education, it is not – in itself – inclusive education.

UDL is an important consideration when designing an inclusive education system because it supports a “whole person approach” and learning-friendly environments. But UDL alone is not sufficient to ensure inclusive policy or practices. UDL has the potential to be a successful bottom-up intervention that, when properly supported by families and communities, activates the shift from traditional education systems (focused on memorization) to inclusive education systems (learning to learn).

Elaborating this technical paper has revealed that there are many examples of UDL in policy although there are few that demonstrate how and if the policy is impacting practice. In addition, there are few examples of the implication – at the group level – of practicing according to the UDL principles. This is likely due to the flexibility that UDL can afford a teacher/classroom, which makes it difficult to observe and document overtime. However, and despite a lack of research, there is enough evidence that UDL can support teachers in changing the ways in which they view learners who struggle with learning or learners who learn “differently”. The paper also lists a set of recommendations largely aimed at education professionals and civil society.

Click here to download the IDA Technical Paper on Universal Design for Learning.