Universal Design for Learning by David H. Rose, Ed.D.
By David H. Rose, Ed.D.
Thank you Nancy for inviting me to put some thoughts about UDL on your blog. I hope I can reduce some of the misconceptions about UDL that appeared here, and then perhaps engage in discussion where I can learn more from you and your readers.
So, where did UDL come from? The framework of UDL was developed by a group of neuropsychologists and special educators who worked at a children’s hospital in Boston. Our job was to evaluate students who were having learning difficulties in school and to make recommendations to improve their progress. Around 1984 we began to think that modern technology had a lot to offer those students, especially those with disabilities, and their teachers. So, we formed a new clinic which we called CAST to learn what was useful (and what was not) so that we could make better recommendations. Eventually that clinic became a very popular service for parents and schools in our area and we split from the hospital to focus more directly on research and development to learn more.
At first most of our attention was focused on assistive technology – the use of specialized technology to overcome the barriers students faced in school. For some students that was astoundingly successful, but many students still faced barriers. Soon we discovered the architectural movement of universal design. In that movement, a small group of architects developed principles and guidelines for designing buildings that, from the outset, had fewer barriers and more options. Now almost all new public buildings in the US are universally designed – and everyone benefits from the ramps and elevators (etc.) that are there for all of us.