What is Universal Design?

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

Definition by Ronald Mace: "the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life." 

Universal design (UD) is for anyone and everyone. Look around you. Every day you see people of all ages, sizes, capabilities, and the list goes on. Universal Design is a concept that brings together comfort, awareness, understanding, social integration, wellness, personalization, cultural appropriateness, and body fit (click here for specific examples of each entity).

Image Retrieved from here

The intent (according to the Center for UD): 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. UD benefits people of all ages and abilities.


The Design

Examples for Playspaces

Equitable Use Is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities Motion-operated automatic doors
Flexibility in Use Accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities Equipment, benches, chairs, etc. of different heights and sizes
Simple and Intuitive Use Easy to understand, regardless of users experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level Simple signage easy for all people to interpret
Perceptible Information Communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities Wall, floor, and sidewalk art communicates location
Tolerance for Error Minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions Paint splatters on the art room wall allows for children's mistakes
Low Physical Effort Used effectively and comfortably with a minimum of fatigue Seamless transition in flooring and playground surfacing
Size and Space for Approach and Use Provides appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of users body size, posture, or mobility

Occupational Therapy's purpose in Universal Design: to increase independence in our client's, to eliminate architectural barrier's, to explain the full benefits, and to increase public awareness. 
Examples of features: Handrails, walk-in/roll-in showers, grab bars, accessible storage, adequate lighting, easy grip controls, accessible appliances, safe flooring, and safety devices (Leto, Theresa. (2015)).

Learn more about the UD Live & Learn Conference  from UD Today which includes compelling topics, speakers, and inspiring ideas. 
Dates of the conference: May 15-17, 2017 in Charleston, West Virginia. 

What is UD? http://www.universaldesign.com/what-is-ud/

Leto, Theresa. (2015). Concepts of Accessibility and Universal Design.  (PowerPoint slides)

The Center for Universal Design (1997). The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University. 

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