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Universal Design for Learning

▼   What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn (Cast, 2020). This framework provides a set of guidelines for developing instruction for all learners. Universal design for learning does not represent a class accommodation, it is a framework designed to benefit all learners.

▼   Universal Design for Universal Access

The Center for Educational Accessibility & Disability Resources at the University of South Alabama is a nurturing and encouraging unit that is dedicated to providing all students with disabilities equal access to accommodations needed to facilitate academic success. South aims to ensure compliance with applicable laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation ACT of 1973 and the applicable titles of the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) of 1990 for qualified students with disabilities. The University is committed to helping students with documented disabilities through a variety of services, including providing, arranging, and coordinating accommodations for participation in courses, programs and campus activities. As a faculty or staff member of the university, you have a special obligation to ensure that reasonable, appropriate accommodations are provided to students registered with Disability Services. You also have the right to verify documentation and expect students to initiate accommodation requests.

Under federal law, the University is required to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Each student receiving accommodations has to be registered with the Center for Educational Accessibility & Disability Resources and provided documentation of his or her disability to their office. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with bona fide disabilities will be afforded reasonable accommodation. The Center for Educational Accessibility & Disability Resources will certify a disability and advise faculty members of reasonable accommodations. If you have a specific disability that qualifies you for academic accommodations, contact the Center for Educational Accessibility & Disability Resources to receive proper certification that you can provide to your instructor(s). The Center for Educational Accessibility & Disability Resources is located at 320 Alumni Circle, Educational Services Building, Suite 19, Phone (251) 460-7212.

▼   UDL Guidelines

The three UDL principles were developed to guide the design, selection, and application of learning tools, methods and environment. They have undergone considerable elaboration and revision since it’s conception, these principles are: 

Provide Multiple means of Engagement: UDL’s ultimate goal is to enable learners to become experts.  Expertise involves developing interest, purpose, motivation, and self-regulation. It is important to design learning experiences that allow learners to be challenged, to build self-knowledge,and to persist through failure. 

Provide Multiple means of Representation: Expertise requires constructing knowledge and perceiving information in the environment. This depends upon the different methods and media used to present this information. It is important to provide learners with options to process information so that they can transfer it to a variety of situations.

Provide Multiple means of Action and Expression: For learners to become experts they need to be able to set goals, monitor their progress, utilize strategies to manage information. Novice learners might approach learning through trial and error, they experiment until they find strategies that work for each of them. It is important that learners are guided and receive support through these processes.

Access the complete UDL Guidelines.


Click here to view a introduction to accessibility and who benefits from accessible learning.

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UDL in Canvas

Canvas as an LMS allows instructors to start implementing the UDL framework through the different native and third party tools in Canvas. Below are some suggestions to start implementing UDL in your Canvas Course.

Additionally, the ILC conducted a webinar on the UDL, which can be accessed by clicking this here.


Accessibility Basics Checklist

The following outlines a practical framework for course creation with accessibility in mind: 

  • Use digital text, not scanned images of text

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  • Use Microsoft Word (*.DOC and *.DOCX) and HTML (*.HTM) formats, which are nearly universally accessible

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  • Use Alt Tags for graphic images, with concise text conveying the message a sighted reader would be expected to get from the graphic

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  • Use heading and table tags to make document navigation simpler and make the document more readable for screen reader users

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  • Mark decorative images that do not impact learning (logos, lines, etc.)

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  • Select document language

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  • Use tables accordingly

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  • For long documents, use a table of contents

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  • Make sure colors contrast for easy viewing

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  • Use accessibility checkers

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*Please note: Captioning services for video has been discontinued; however, South-licensed software, Panopto, allows for application of "auto-captioning" directly to pre-recorded video. The how-to guide for this process can be found here.

E-Learning Accessibility Resources

The organizations and groups listed below contain a variety of information, tools, and guidance for anyone interested in making web and online learning content accessible to as many students as possible.

▼   W3C – World Wide Web Consortium

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop web standards. Led by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and CEO Jeffrey Jeffe, W3C’s mission is to lead the Web to its full potential.

▼   WCAG 2.0 – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general.

▼   Essential Components of Web Accessibility

This document shows how Web accessibility depends on several components working together and how improvements in specific components could substantially improve Web accessibility. It also shows how the WAI guidelines address these components.

▼   WEBAIM – Web Accessibility in Mind

WebAIM has provided comprehensive web accessibility solutions since 1999. These years of experience have made WebAIM one of the leading providers of Web accessibility expertise internationally.

▼   AHEAD Association on Higher Education and Disability

AHEAD is a professional membership organization for individuals involved in the development of policy and in the provision of quality services to meet the needs of persons with disabilities in all areas of higher education.

▼    Microsoft Accessibility

Help from the makers of the primary software being used for document and spreadsheet creation and sharing over the internet.


Best Practices for Zoom Privacy

The University of South Alabama’s University Attorney has provided some usage guidance on recording class sessions in Zoom. The official guidance is currently under formulation, but includes the following considerations:

  • A syllabus statement about class sessions being recorded and the potential uses for the recording ("used for educational purposes for those enrolled in this course section") is recommended.
  • It is appropriate to notify students that they should not share the recordings outside of their intended purpose.
  • As far as using the recorded lectures in future semesters, it is not recommended to use recordings with student discussions in them.

In consultation with Dr. Dimitrios Damopoulos, the ILC has developed some sample syllabus language for use, as well as some answers to frequently asked questions. This guidance, along with syllabus language and FAQs, is found by clicking here.

Click to view the Zoom privacy webinar presented by the ILC and Dr. Dimitrios Damopoulos

USAonline Policies

E-Learning Accessibility Guidelines
Accessibility Audit Methodology

Federal Standards

ADA Standards
Section 504 Standards
Section 508 Standards
Section 508 Summary


USAonline Accessibility FAQ
USAonline Accessibility Guide


Center for Educational Accessibility & Disability Resources
How to Create Captions in Panopto