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Universal Design Resources

Universal design can be thought of as the broad spectrum of concepts for the creation of products, buildings and environments that feature accessibility for people who have disabilities as well as those who do not. Ronald L. Mace was the architect who first came up with the term “universal design.” The term is meant to denote the principle of designing the built environment and its products in an aesthetic way and to be usable by everyone regardless of disabilities. Universal design’s roots can be traced back all the way to the broader accessibility movement, the concept of barrier-free environments, and assistive as well as adaptive technology.

Principles of Universal Design

1. Equitable Use

The first principle of universal design pertains to how marketable and useful a design is to persons of diverse capabilities. Equitable use means providing the same means of use for all kinds of users. This principle calls for the avoidance of the stigmatizing or segregation of any user. Finally, this principle also demands that the design be appealing to everyone.

2. Flexibility in Use

The second principle of universal design should accommodate a large range of individual abilities and preferences. That means that it should provide different choices in the means of use and accommodate both right- and left-handed users. Users should also have their precision and accuracy looked after under this principle. Finally, flexibility in use must offer adaptability to the pace of the individual user.

3. Simple and Intuitive

This principle seeks to make the design’s use easy to comprehend. This should be regardless to the previous experience of the user, his current concentration level, his knowledge or his language abilities. The first step in achieving this principle is to eliminate unnecessary complexity. Then, this principle calls for being consistent with the expectations of the user and accommodating a large range of both language and literacy abilities.

4. Perceptible Information

Perceptible information seeks to effectively communicate information to any user. This effective communication should be regardless of the user’s sensory capabilities or of any ambient conditions. This principle calls for the use of sufficient contrast between fundamental information and its environment. This principle also calls for the identification of elements described in simple ways that will be easily understood.

5. Tolerance for Error

The fifth principle reduces dangers and the harmful effects of accidents or any unintended actions. Under this principle, elements should be arranged to reduce errors and hazards. For example, the elements that are most used should be the most accessible elements in an environment. If there are known hazards, then warnings ought to be provided, too.

6. Low Physical Effort

This principle dictates that a design should be easy to use without causing fatigue to the user. This principle is characterized by allowing the user to maintain a body position that is neutral. Repetitive actions have to be kept to a minimum under this sixth principle of universal design. Finally, the operating force on objects should only be minimal.

7. Size and Space for Approach and Use

Under this principle, proper size and space must be given for reach and use, regardless the user’s size, mobility or posture. It is important that a clear line of sight is provided to any seated or standing elements in an environment. Differences in both grip and hand size need to be accommodated. Finally, an effort has to be made to provide good reach to all components in an environment, whether to standing or seated users.

Design Standards

The design standards for buildings and facilities for those with disabilities have to be considerate towards their lack of abilities. As such, factors have to be incorporated into the design of buildings and facilities that allow disabled people to use the premises without any inconvenience on their part. For instance, wheelchair accessibility has to be incorporated into the overall design scheme, as well as aspects like handrails, ramps and even platform lifts. The installation of these design standards has to be all over the place, from bathrooms to general use areas. Having the right signage in and around buildings and facilities for disabled people is another key concept that has to be satisfied. For example, signs around the property should be placed in areas where they are easy to spot and also be understood, and they should not be placed in such a way to create hazards for the disabled people.

Additional Universal Design Resources