Universal Design Principles
Universal design is an approach to the design of all products and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability, or situation. It serves people who are young or old, with excellent or limited abilities, in ideal or difficult circumstances. Universal design benefits everyone by accommodating limitations.
The seven Principles that describe characteristics that make designs universally usable are:
- Equitable Use
- Flexibility in Use
- Low Physical Effort
- Perceptible Information
- Simple and Intuitive Use
- Size and Space for Approach and Use
- Tolerance for Error
Universal design is a relatively new paradigm that emerged from “barrier-free” or “accessible design” and “assistive technology.”
(Inclusive design) – Refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities and people with disabilities. Universal design emerged from slightly earlier barrier-free concepts, the broader accessibility movement, and adaptive and assistive technology and also seeks to blend aesthetics into these core considerations.
Universal design differs from accessibility requirements in that accessibility requirements are usually prescriptive whereas universal design is performance based. Universal design does not have standards or requirements but addresses usability issues such as accessible home design for seniors and persons with a disability.
With Human Diversity in Mind
Universal Design takes into account the full range of human diversity, including physical, perceptual and cognitive abilities, as well as different body sizes and shapes. By designing for this diversity, things can be created that are more functional and more user-friendly for everyone. For instance, curb cuts at sidewalks were initially designed for people who use wheelchairs, but they are now also used by pedestrians with strollers or rolling luggage. Curb cuts have added functionality to sidewalks that we can all benefit from.
Universal design strives to be a broad-spectrum solution that helps everyone, not just people with disabilities.
Universal design is assuming growing importance as a new paradigm that represents a holistic and integrated approach to design ranging in scale, for example, from product design to architecture and urban design, and from simple systems such as those that control the ambient environment to complex information technologies.
As the world’s population ages, so does the demand for senior appropriate homes, renovations, and assistive devices. Universal design can help builders and re-modelers address the needs of their older clients, and builders focused on building houses for every need.
Centres for Universal Design provide information, technical assistance, and research centre that evaluates, develops, and promotes accessible and universal design in housing, commercial and public facilities, outdoor environments, and products.