Universal Design Defined
Universal Design, a Definition
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Look in a dictionary or thesaurus at the word universal. You'll see definitions and synonyms as simple as common, complete, every and whole. You'll also find more thought-provoking words such as inclusive, embracing, comprehensive and limitless. The dictionary defines a design as a plan, arrangement or blueprint. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.
The intent of Universal Design is to simplify life for everyone.
Introduction to Universal Design
The late Ron Mace was an architect and founder of the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. In the 1970s he combined the words universal and design to describe what would become a standard of usability for everyone.
By definition, Universal Design is the creation of products and environments meant to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialization. The intent of Universal Design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal Design benefits people of all ages and abilities. True Universal Design is unobtrusive, even invisible. If you've ever been through an automatic door, you've experienced a version of Universal Design. A ramp or curb cut is just as welcome to someone with a baby stroller as it is to someone in a wheelchair. In addition to those whose mobility is limited, the design is intuitive to those who cannot read or hear or those who read or speak a foreign language.
Ironically, the “conspicuousness” of a person having to deal (often awkwardly and unsuccessfully) with the barriers of most built environments is what brings attention to their dilemma. “We” have created the handicap and disability. The handicap is the structure itself. The disability comes from dealing with it. In addition to access and inclusion, Universal Design brings with it an extra margin of safety. However, Universal Design isn’t about ramps and grab bars, although devices such as these remain necessary for assistance. It isn’t a clinical, “special” look.
This article is intended to introduce the concept of Universal Design, not to provide specific construction advice. While many design features are simple, others require an experienced contractor. When in doubt, always consult a professional.
Principles and Guidelines of Universal Design The Principles and Guidelines of Universal Design as defined by the Center of Universal Design at North Carolina State University:
One — Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
- Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.
- Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.
- Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.
- Make the design appealing to all users.
Two — Flexibility In Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities Provide choice in methods of use.
- Accommodate right-or left-handed access and use.
- Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision.
- Provide adaptability to the user's pace.
Three — Simple and Intuitive Use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
- Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
- Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.
- Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.
- Arrange information consistent with its importance.
- Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.
Four — Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
- Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
- Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
- Maximize "legibility" of essential information.
- Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
- Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.
Five — Tolerance For Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
- Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
- Provide warnings of hazards and errors.
- Provide fail safe features.
- Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.
Six — Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
- Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
- Use reasonable operating forces.
- Minimize repetitive actions.
- Minimize sustained physical effort.
Seven — Size And Space For Approach And Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture or mobility.
- Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
- Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
- Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.
- Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.
What are Some Common Examples of Universal Design?
You may already be using Universal Design concepts and didn't realize it. Here's a quick list:
Additional task lighting is needed for "older" eyes.
Added lighting is also advised in areas to increase safety, such as for stairs.
Push/pull lever faucets for those with limited hand strength or dexterity.
Leverset entry or interior door hardware.
Wide swing hinges allow use of the entire doorway.