AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


UDL & the Continuum of Supports

To work, Universal Design for Learning requires the support of national policies and implementation frameworks, along with commitment across the whole institution to reducing barriers in the learning environment and in turn, a recognition that inclusion requires a continuum of supports that reaches from the classroom to the disability support service and which incorporates the provision of reasonable accommodations.

The Inclusive Education Pyramid - Level 1 (the base of the pyramid) shows the majority of students being catered for in the classroom via UDL principles. Level 2 shows group supports (e.g. learning support sessions) given to groups of students with similar needs. Level 3 further up the pyramid shows students who require an individual accommodation such as a piece of assistive technology. On Level 4 (the tip of the pyramid) sit students who require personal supports such as a personal assistant or scribe.

The Inclusive Education Pyramid shown above demonstrates the varying levels of support required. As practitioners, the aim should be to move supports as low down the pyramid as possible. 

Level 1: The majority of students

With the incorporation of UDL principles into the mainstream teaching, learning and assessment practice of the institution, the majority of students can have a successful learning experience without additional support. It's important to note that all students with disabilities should still be afforded the opportunity to complete a Needs Assessment, even if their needs can be met in the mainstream.

Level 2: Students with similar needs

In some cases, students with similar needs who required additional support can have support provided in a group setting. Examples of this would include group learning support sessions and examinations in alternative venues for students with similar exam needs. In some cases, these supports will be prescribed as a result of a needs assessment with a specialist service (e.g. the disability support service). In other cases, group supports main be available to all students in the mainstream (e.g. learning support services).

Level 3: Individual accommodation

Individual reasonable accommodations remain a very important part of an inclusive institution. Some students require individual supports such as Assistive Technology or flexibility with examination deadlines which enable them to participate fully in the learning experience. These supports will be prescribed as a result of a needs assessment with a specialist service (e.g. the disability support service).

Level 4: Personal assistant

Sometimes students might have the need for more personal, professional supports, in addition to individual accommodations like those outlined in Level 3. For example, students with certain disabilities may require the use of a personal assistant on campus, or in an exam setting, a reader or scribe. Like those in Level 3, these supports will be prescribed as a result of a needs assessment with a specialist service (e.g. the disability support service).

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Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

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