Can you imagine the structures of a world without barriers? In truth, the prospect has been contemplated, due in large part to the disabled community. The notion comes off as so rewarding to society that a website has been devoted specifically to the cause. And it is here that we can find a well-articulated definition of exactly what Universal Design is:
“Universal Design involves designing products and spaces so that they can be used by the widest range of people possible. Universal Design evolved from Accessible Design, a design process that addresses the needs of people with disabilities. Universal Design goes further by recognizing that there is a wide spectrum of human abilities. Everyone, even the most able-bodied person, passes through childhood, periods of temporary illness, injury and old age. By designing for this human diversity, we can create things that will be easier for all people to use” (Source).
How do you like that? Universal Design considers more than just producing structures that are accessible for the disabled community; not that this isn’t worthy in and of itself. It sounds as though Universal Design is a philosophy that the creative minds and engineers of the world should embrace. It is a way of thinking that is inclusive, a way of bringing humanity together. Consider a great, visually presented example:
The effect here is stunning. A simple comparative analysis tells us precisely what the captions convey, that when thinking with the diversity of society in mind, the outcome eliminates the potential for polarization and instead, incites unification along with — satisfyingly enough — aesthetic principle. The second picture presents us with an ideal world that not only serves scope of utility, but brings out the beauty to be found in architectural creativity. Here we have the idea embodied in a more modern form:
Coined by Ronald L. Mace of North Carolina State University, Universal Design has come to be further studied through collaboration with architects, product designers, engineers and environmental designers, culminating in seven basic principles:
1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
3. 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.
4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably with minimum fatigue.
7. 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. (Source)
To think of Universal Design applying primarily to architecture is understandable, but we can find elements of the philosophy in one of our most used products of daily life, the standard door knob:
In the next case, we have the features of a bathroom accommodating the products we use, as well as accommodating the need for safety — the items in view have been sleekly modified so that they can be used as grab bars:
One thing you can count on is that Disability Services & Legal Center (DSLC) supports the philosophy of Universal Design in its entirety. To celebrate and empower the cause, DSLC conducts a technology exposition on a yearly basis, right here in Santa Rosa, California. Here you can learn about the products and services which embrace Universal Design as they are united in a day of presentation and exploration. We hope you’ll take a moment to come and see the wonderful displays and the people who accompany them, which is really a fancy way of saying:
Join us for Tech Expo 2015!