A European report sets the scene for promoting universal design and setting an action plan in motion. It promotes a universal design (UD) approach as a strategy to ensure equal and democratic rights in society for all individuals. It covers participation in: political and public life; cultural life; information and communication; education; employment; the built environment; transport; community living; legal protection; research and development; and awareness raising.
This article will be of interest to policy makers and anyone else interested in furthering universal design principles across all aspects of society. Using the 2012 UD Conference in Oslo as a catalyst, the Nordic countries worked together to create a common goal and strategy for dealing with the challenges of an ageing population as well as meeting their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. Although published as an academic article in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, it is informative in the way it covers the built environment, products, services, and ICT.
The article was published by Multi:The RIT Journal of Plurality and Diversity in Design. It is also available on ResearchGate.
The article was written in 2008 before the 8 Goals of Universal Design were devised by Steinfeld and Maisel in 2012. These goals have a more practical focus. More recently, the concept of universal design has evolved to embrace diversity and inclusion in their broadest sense.
The beginnings of the universal design movement are attributed to Ron Mace, a polio survivor who went on to be an architect.
Designing products and environments to be usable by the majority of people is the underpinning concept of universal design. In some aspects, however, universal design fails to meet some of its own principles. This has resulted in a lack of understanding of the concept, which in turn, has allowed the terms “accessibility” and “disability” to inhabit the language of universal design. Consequently, universal design is bounded by concepts of accessibility, regulations and disability rights, rather than the intellectual challenges inherent in designing for the whole of the population bell curve.
The universal design movement recognizes that making headway is proving difficult and is seeking ways to improve its position. Market research, however, indicates universal design is branded as a disability product and this has implications for consumers, practitioners, and for the universal design movement in general. Discussed are the influence of terminology on the direction and perceptions of universal design, and the dilemmas of applying a regulatory framework as an implementation strategy.