The Benefits of a UDL Approach
1. Benefits for Students
Designing learning environments to include students on the margins helps all students
"Ideally, UDL allows students with disabilities to access courses without adaptation, and also allows the coursework to be available in a variety of formats for the non-disabled, making it easier for everyone to access" (Applying UDL to Online Courses). Illustrated with the following cartoon, this means clearing the ramp first. Or rather, designing the ramp first because it's most inclusive of users' variable abilities.
© (2002). Michael F. Giangreco and Kevin Buelle. Farside cartoon. Reproduction and communication of this material is permitted under the Fair Dealing provision of the Canadian Copyright Act.
2. Benefits for Instructors
UDL provides a pedagogical framework for values-based teaching practices
Read the values statements of any post-secondary institution and you're likely to see these three: diversity, accessibility, and innovation. The UDL framework provides a practical guide for instructors whose commitment to these values is motivated by the increasingly diverse needs of their students. For the instructor whose teaching philosophy is rooted in equitable access and participation, the UDL guidelines help move sometimes aspirational values statements to lived practice.
3. Benefits to the Institution
UDL impacts sustainability measures
Public education institutions have a legal responsibility to accommodate students with disabilities. As identified by McGill University's Office for Students with Disabilities, this "traditional 'accommodations' approach to disability is an ad hoc process of retrofitting, repeated each semester, for each course, for each individual making a request" (McGill University, Office for Students with Disabilities). Compounding this investment in retrofitting are the growing numbers of students identifying disability-related challenges and their increasingly varied diagnoses. As the McGill OSD also points out, it's becoming unrealistic for a single centralized disability office to make individual recommendations for each and every student and specific to each diagnosis. However, "Universal Design, by focusing on modification to the environment, constitutes a sustainable approach to the management of the diverse needs of learners" (McGill University, Policies, UDL). Another important way that UDL improves an institution's "bottom line" is by supporting retention, the foundation of student enrolment management. When the curriculum 'works' for more students, more students will persist through to completion of courses and programs.