Universal Design

Disabilities symbolsUniversal Design is a term that comes from architecture and is, “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without need for adaptation or specialized design.”

The intent of the Universal Design concept is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by more people at little or no extra cost. The Universal Design concept targets ALL people, of ALL ages, sizes, and abilities.

The key to access for everyone is Universal Design. A home or a workplace utilizing Universal Design may include ramps, levered doors, remote-operated electric switches, roll-in showers, and a myriad of products and design features that afford easy access and use for people with disabilities.

Many universally designed products that were originally intended to provide access for people with disabilities have resulted in new, often unintended uses that benefit large numbers of non-disabled people. Closed captioning, developed for people who are deaf, today assists children who are learning to read or adults who are learning English as a second language. In many public places, where the sound of a television would be a distraction or an annoyance, the TV volume is off and the captioning is on so that viewers can know what is being broadcast.

A universally designed information system, like a universally designed living or working space, incorporates features that are usable by anyone, regardless of differences in how individuals see, hear, move, talk, or think. A universally designed technology as manufactured and sold — or “off the shelf” or “out of the box” — is usable by anyone with little or no alteration. Universally designed technologies such as computers, telephones, and faxes, can be designed to work together in a seamless, integrated system that provides access for everyone: universal access.