What is Universal Design?
Universal design makes things more accessible, safer, and convenient for everyone. Also called “Design for All” or “Inclusive Design,” it is a philosophy that can be applied to policy, design and other practices to make products, environments and systems function better for a wider range of people. It developed in response to the diversity of human populations, their abilities and their needs. Examples of universal design include utensils with larger handles, curb ramps, automated doors, kneeling buses with telescoping ramps, houses with no-step entries, closed captioning in televisions, and the accessibility features incorporated into computer operating systems and software.
Universal design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to both people without disabilities and people with disabilities
The term “universal design” was coined by the architect Ronald N lace to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. However, it was the work of Selwyn Goldsmith, author of Designing for the Disabled (1963), who really pioneered the concept of free access for disabled people. His most significant achievement was the creation of the dropped curb – now a standard feature of the built environment.
Universal design emerged from slightly earlier barrier-free concepts, (Barrier-free building modification consists of modifying buildings or facilities so that they can be used by people who are disabld or have physical impairments) the broader accessibility movement and adaptive and assistive technology and also seeks to blend aesthetics into these core considerations. As life expectancy rises and modern medicine increases the survival rate of those with significant injuries, illnesses, and birth defects, there is a growing interest in universal design. There are many industries in which universal design is having strong market penetration but there are many others in which it has not yet been adapted to any great extent. Universal design is also being applied to the design of technology, instruction, services, and other products and environments.
Purpose of Universal Design
Universal Design E-World provides web based tools to support the “community of practice” in universal design. Conventional web pages can be constructed to provide permanent reference documents and links to other resources on the World Wide Web. A wiki engine allows the construction of interactive web pages and collaboration in development of documents. On line surveys can be organized using an online survey research and polling tool. The activities supported by UD E-World can be public or restricted to specific groups like the participants of a research project, a temporary work group or a special interest group in a professional organization. To avoid abuse, we are only providing access to registered users, even in the public areas, and reserve the right to bar any user who does not comply with our Term of use
How process that can be applied to the design of any product or environment?
Designing any product or environment involves the consideration of many factors, including aesthetics, engineering options, environmental issues, safety concerns, industry standards, and cost. Often, designers focus on the average user. In contrast, universal design (UD), according to the Center for Universal Design, “is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design”
When UD principles are applied, products and environments meet the needs of potential users with a wide variety of characteristics. Disability is just one of many characteristics that an individual might possess. For example, one person could be Hispanic, six feet tall, male, thirty years old, an excellent reader, primarily a visual learner, and deaf. All of these characteristics, including his deafness, should be considered when developing a product or environment he, as well as individuals with many other characteristics, might use.
UD can be applied to any product or environment. For example, a typical service counter in a place of business is not accessible to everyone, including those of short stature, those who use wheelchairs, and those who cannot stand for extended periods of time. Applying UD principles might result in the design of a counter that has multiple heights—the standard height designed for individuals within the average range of height and who use the counter while standing up and a shorter height for those who are shorter than average, use a wheelchair for mobility, or prefer to interact with service staff from a seated position.
Making a product or an environment accessible to people with disabilities often benefits others. For example, automatic door openers benefit individuals using walkers and wheelchairs, but also benefit people carrying groceries and holding babies, as well as elderly citizens. Sidewalk curb cuts, designed to make sidewalks and streets accessible to those using wheelchairs, are often used by kids on skateboards, parents with baby strollers, and delivery staff with carts. When television displays in airports and restaurants are captioned, programming is accessible not only to people who are deaf but also to others who cannot hear the audio in noisy areas.
UD is a goal that puts a high value on both diversity and inclusiveness. It is also a process. The following paragraphs summarize process, principles, and applications of UD.
Universal Design Principles:
At the Center for Universal Design (CUD) at North Carolina State University, a group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers established seven principles of UD to provide guidance in the design of products and environments. Following are the CUD principles of UD, each followed with an example of its application:
- Equitable use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. For example, a website that is designed to be accessible to everyone, including people who are blind, employs this principle.
- Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. An example is a museum that allows visitors to choose to read or listen to the description of the contents of a display case.
- Simple and intuitive: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Science lab equipment with clear and intuitive control buttons is an example of an application of this principle.
- Perceptible information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. An example of this principle is captioned television programming projected in noisy restaurants.
- Tolerance for error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. An example of a product applying this principle is software applications that provide guidance when the user makes an inappropriate selection.
- Low physical effort: The design can be used efficiently, comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue. Doors that open automatically for people with a wide variety of physical characteristics demonstrate the application of this principle.
- Size and space for approach and use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility. A flexible work area designed for use by employees with a variety of physical characteristics and abilities is an example of applying this principle.