What is universal design?

Slide at a universal design conference with the words, good design enables. Bad design disables.Universal design is understood internationally as a means of achieving an inclusive society. It is a simple idea. Why not design for the most number of people who can use a product, place, building, service or website? But is it actually that simple? Given the number of myths that have arisen in the last 50 years since the term was coined, probably not. The term Universal Design is recognised internationally, but there are others including, Inclusive Design, Design-for-All, Human Centred Design, Accessible Design.

Here are some links to the posts on universal design, each with their own way of presenting the concept:

10 Things to know about Universal Design lists key benefits and dispels myths

Universal Design: Creating inclusion for everyone is a magazine article

Meet the Normals: Adventures in Universal Design, and Universally Designed Digital Life are two videos explaining the concepts well.

Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority promotes universal design in public buildings. 

Diversity of Explanations of UD lists some of the everyday words that can be used to help explain. UD is about diversity so why not have a diversity of explanations.

8 Goals of Universal Design express the principles in a practical way. They can be adapted to any context by using terms and language that suit.

7 Principles of Universal Design are often quoted, but not always the best explanation for people new to the topic. 

Principles of Inclusive Design by the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE) in UK. 

Hobsons Bay Universal Design Policy is a very useful example of how to devise a policy for an inclusive community. 

Digital and web accessibility have their own section on this website. 

Library building with wide level paved pathway to the entrance. Picture taken in Berrigan NSW.“UD is an increasingly important feature of nation states seeking to develop a fairer society for people unable to access and use, with ease, the designed environment. It is based on the premise that the design of products and environments ought to ‘be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design’ (Mace, 1988: 1).” (From Universalising Design website which also has more information on universal design in homes.) 

Accessible Design in Australia

Accessible Design in Australia 1999 front coverIn 1998 a group of passionate people came together with the aim of creating a centre for accessible design. They consulted widely and held two symposia, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. The findings from these symposia are documented in Accessible Design in Australia

For various reasons, the project ended at this point and no further action was taken. However, soon afterwards a small group, led by Dr Max Murray, started the Association of Consultants in Access Australia, Australia (ACAA). Centre for Universal Design Australia has picked up the threads to follow through on the aim of having a central point or body for creating an inclusive Australia.