The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
666 Broadway, 8th Floor
New York New York 10012

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

About Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. NDSS strives to maximize the use of the UDL framework in order to raise expectations and improve educational outcomes for students with Down syndrome from early childhood through postsecondary education. NDSS leads the National UDL Task Force, comprised of more than 40 national education and disability organizations. NDSS work to implement UDL at all levels of government by promoting UDL in federal and state policy and legislation.

UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone. It is not a single, one-size-fits-all, solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.  Individuals bring a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning. Neuroscience reveals that these differences are as varied and unique as our DNA or fingerprints.

NDSS & UDL Federal Advocacy

NDSS seeks to provide meaningful access to the educational curriculum for all students by incorporating UDL provisions in federal and state n legislation that calls for applying principles to all aspects of the curriculum. This includes standards, instructional objectives, teaching methods, instructional materials and assessments. NDSS pursues legislative, regulatory and funding opportunities to promote and expand UDL for students with Down syndrome at the federal and state level, with a specific focus on the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA), formerly No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Moreover, NDSS, along with the National UDL Task Force, led the effort to include UDL provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which encouraged teacher preparation programs to provide future educators with the skills to implement UDL in their classrooms and promoted the use of UDL principles by college faculty in all instruction.

Significant UDL language appears in the National Education Technology Plan; the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top assessment program; the Common Core Standards; which have been adopted by most states; the US Department of Education guidance describing recommended uses of Recovery Act funds; the Administration’s Blueprint for Reform regarding ESEA reauthorization and many state ESEA Flexibility Requests. NDSS is also working to include UDL provisions in NCLB/ESEA and IDEA.

NDSS & UDL State Advocacy  

Since 2010, the NDSS Maryland Government Affairs Committee (GAC), the Maryland Down syndrome Advocacy Coalition (MDAC), has worked to introduce and pass a UDL bill. Once passed, the UDL law created the Maryland UDL Task Force to develop a report on the feasibility and effectiveness of UDL implementation in the state. The Task Force report contains recommendations for UDL implementation at the state, as well as district, school and higher education levels. In order to help other states with UDL implementation, NDSS and MDAC compiled a report titled, A Case Study of Maryland’s Legislation on Universal Design for Learning (“UDL”) , which describes the efforts to pass a UDL law in the state of Maryland.

In July 2012, the Maryland State Board of Education adopted the proposed regulations on UDL implementation. You can find additional information on the Maryland UDL Task Force under NDSS State Resources below.

NDSS Resources

External Resources

  • Buddy Walk
  • NDSS Yourway
  • My Great Story
  • NDSS DS-Ambassadors