Opportunities and barriers in implementing UDL for accessibility – data from both students and faculty’s perspectives

Handouts Media

Presented at 11:45am in Virtual D on Friday, November 10, 2023.



  • Hongye Liu, Understanding the needs of students with disabilities based on Universal Design of Learning and some implementations, Univ. of Illinois Urbana Champaign
  • Lawrence Angrave, Teaching Professor, Univ. of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Intermediate
  • Type of session: General Conference


Understanding the needs of students with disabilities (SWDs) is crucial for inclusive learning in college education. We present survey data in Fa2022 from both faculty and undergraduate students (predominantly in engineering) in Univ. of Illinois Urbana Champaign about their experiences with 16 UDL-based course design practices and their perceived usefulness.


Students responded they found most useful the following UDL practices: searchable recorded lectures, flexible deadlines, transcripts for videos, official discussion platform, and alternative learning formats to lectures (i.e: textbooks, and slides); Among the students, there are >30% students with disabilities (SWD). Both SWD and female students responded significant less experienced UDL practices (False Discovery Rate (FDR) controlled p < 0.03). SWD are significantly more uncomfortable giving direct feedback to instructors (chisq p < 0.006). Specifically, SWD experience recorded lectures, onboarding forms for accessibility, and alternative learning formats significantly (FDR controlled p < 0.015) less than students without disabilities (SWOD). We also found all groups of students rank and experience the UDL guidelines in the following order: representation, action-expression, and engagement. Despite that students rate the usefulness of all the UDL features higher than their frequency (except “autograders”), some features show acute differences between the perceived usefulness and its frequency in students' experience. For example, “flexible deadlines” is ranked 2nd in usefulness while experienced very infrequently (only ranked 7th in frequency). The 25 faculty responses on usefulness of the UDL practices differ from that of the students; notably, “frequent low-stake tests” is valued among the faculty, but was not in the top five according to the students’ responses. Faculty responded the major barriers in implementing UDL practices are the lack of awareness of accessibility features and lack of training for technologies such as creating recordings and transcripts. We provide these empirical findings about opportunities and barriers for implementing UDL practices for all stakeholders in developing more inclusive courses.


  1. We present the top UDL features that Engineering students found most useful or frequent.
  2. We present the knowledge level of college instructors about UDL features and their rank of the features.
  3. We present The discrepancy between experienced UDL and their usefulness and the barriers for instructors.

Disability Areas

All Areas, Cognitive/Learning, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Mobility, Psychological, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Administrative/Campus Policy, Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Captioning/Transcription, Faculty Development & Support, Research, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Hongye Liu

Hongye Liu joined the Illinois Department of Computer Science after years of research experience in Biomedical informatics primarily in the Boston Longwood Medical area including Harvard Medical School and its affiliated hospitals. She received her PhD from MIT in the area of computer aided design.

Her educational research focuses on understanding the needs of students with disabilities and broadening the participation of students with disabilities. She is currently PI of three projects at the Univ. of Illinois on helping students with disabilities and developing resources for UDL based course design.

Dr. Liu's paper titled "A UDL-based large-scale study on the needs of students with disabilities in engineering courses" received 2nd Best DEI paper and 3rd Best paper award in NEE session at ASEE2021 annual conference and her paper titled "A Digital Book-Based Pedagogy to Improve Course Content Accessibility for Students with and without Disabilities in Engineering and other STEM courses" received Best DEI paper award in NEE session at ASEE 2022 annual conference.

Lawrence Angrave

Expert in using computer technology to improve accessibility of college courses. Famous as the inventor of the ClassTranscribe - a multimedia computer software as a learning tool that is UDL based.