Your Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion "Step Zero" is UDL

Concurrent Session 9
Leadership Equity and Inclusion

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

For justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in higher education, learners must engage with ideas, content, peers, experts, and their communities. This interactive workshop gives you a "step zero": apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to lower barriers across demographics—disabilities, work schedules, family-care, military service, and home internet connectivity.


Thomas J. Tobin, PhD, MSLS, PMP, MOT, CPACC is the Program Area Director for Distance Teaching & Learning on the Learning Design, Development, & Innovation (LDDI) team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as an internationally-recognized speaker and author on quality in technology-enhanced education. His books include • Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices (2015). • The Copyright Ninja: Rise of the Ninja (2017). • Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education (2018). • Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers (2020).

Extended Abstract


Conversations in higher education about access, equity, and diversity are predicated on people being able to engage with ideas, content, peers, experts, and their local and global communities. Merely being able to take part in interactions is a “step zero” toward justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) efforts across our online programs and curricula. This interactive workshop provides campus leaders—and those who work directly with them—with a toolkit for creating a technology-mediated environment that supports the hard and necessary work of inclusion and equity for those whom we currently serve poorly, or perhaps cannot yet serve at all.

You are likely already familiar with the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a cognitive framework that aims to lower access barriers for learners. This workshop session will show you UDL is a pathway toward that "step zero" of creating inclusive spaces in our online and tech-mediated offerings and interactions. You will also learn specific, concrete techniques for lowering access barriers across important demographics whom we don’t yet serve fully—those who face barriers due to disabilities, yes, but also learners with variable work schedules, family-care responsibilities, military service commitments, and varying levels of home internet connectivity and device ownership.

Relevance & Value

Many campus leaders mistake UDL for a sub-set of legal accessibility requirements that serve only learners with disabilities. This workshop provides participants with language, models, and practices to situate UDL within efforts that campus leaders already support: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as bottom-line budget arguments. In order to advocate effectively for adopting UDL practices across campus, educational developers need to be able to change the mindset among their senior-leader colleagues, so that UDL is perceived as a mission-critical set of practices for the entire campus. Go from "it’s the right thing to do, but we don't have time/funds/people" to "we must do this."


This workshop from the author of Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, UDL in Higher Education and UDL for FET Practitioners: Guidance for Implementing Universal Design for Learning in Irish Further Education & Training is aimed at administrators, faculty members, instructional support staffers, training professionals, technologists, and educational developers who want to learn specific advocacy skills for framing UDL to fit within campus leaders' existing mindsets, processes, and needs.


By participating in this workshop, you will be able to

  • outline four initiatives that campus leaders always fund, regardless of budget or staffing concerns;
  • craft a message to senior campus leaders about UDL that mirrors language used in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements; and
  • role-play how to situate UDL as a mission-critical component of the business plan for your college or university, using recent transcripts of real leadership conversations.

Facilitation Plan

This workshop will be highly interactive, including case-based role-playing experiences, pauses for reflection and self-quizzing, and collaboration around practices and messaging for campus leadership.

The workshop will open with a call for participant ideas and experiences, share the broad outlines of the UDL-as-DEI content, pause for a knowledge check, outline more-detailed methods, and wrap with a role-playing examination of real-life conversations with campus presidents, provosts, CIOs, and deans.

This workshop assumes variety among participants, and will feature multiple means of engagement throughout: the structure of the conversation follows the "10 and 2" best practice of chunking information into discrete blocks, interspersed with opportunities for participant reflection, reaction, and practice. Content and materials will be provided in multiple formats, and the presenter will practice verbal description of visually-shared information throughout. Participants will always have at least +1 options for action and expression: e.g., working solo versus collaborating, using the chat feature for reflection or using the microphone in order to communicate.


CAST. (2019). UDL on Campus. Wakefield, MA: Center for Applied Special Technology.

Heelan, A. & Tobin, T. J. (2021). UDL for FET Practitioners: Guidance for Implementing Universal Design for Learning in Irish Further Education and Training. Dublin, IE: An tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna [SOLAS].

Tobin, T. J. (2017). Get more traction for your awesome universal design for learning program, part II. EDUCAUSE Review.

Tobin, T. J. & Behling, K. T. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press.

Zygouritsas, N. (2016). UDLNet Project. Pallini, GR: UDLnet.