What is Universal Design?

Accessible design symbols with the words Keep Calm and Include Everyone“Universal Design is a plan. The way we measure that plan is accessibility.”

It is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.

A common misconception regarding Universal Design is that it benefits only a few members of the population, such as older and people with disabilities. On the contrary, Universal Design aspires to benefit every member of the population by promoting accessible and usable products, services and environments.

No person operates with full capability for every activity for the duration of his or her lifetime. Accessibility or usability can be affected by, for example, a medical injury or condition (temporary, long-term or permanent), an unfamiliarity with a product or environment, a lack of understanding (e.g. In a foreign country), a physical attribute (e.g. Height, size), and so on.

A Universal Design approach aims to provide a design that takes into account these physical, behavioral, and other, factors. It appreciates that at some point, during some activity, every person experiences some form of limitation in ability. However, it should be added that a hypothetical person who does not experience a disability (in the widest definition of the word) during his or her lifetime will also benefit, at the very least from the positive user experience of simple and intuitive design.

~ Center for Excellence in Universal Design

Example of alternate methods to promote universal design: “Overview NGCDD December 2016 Meeting” video produced to support Council member participation.