Both approaches towards instruction are quite compatible; however, these elements also have some defined differences. Both Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiated Instruction (DI) aim towards the same essential goal of assisting all students, with or without disabilities, learn to higher standards. Both contribute to meeting individual needs rather than force students to be malleable to an inflexible curriculum. Both give access to the same heightened quality of content and instruction as well as emphasizing critical thinking skills and strategic learning.
The significant differences between UDL and DI tend to dwell within the world of the how and when in addressing the diversity of the student and classroom. DI is the modification of the curriculum in order to properly educate the student with his/her specific learning needs or preferences. UDL contrasts this because it addresses the diversity of the student at the construction of the curriculum. UDL also integrates the methods for DI within the lesson or curriculum allowing the student the ability to become more educationally aware so that they are in command of their own education rather than having to rely on the possible crutch of the modifications made by the educator.