Certification for universal design: does it work?

Certification for universal design and accessibility should be tested by different users to be sure it is worthy. An hotel in New York with an isUD certification was the subject of such a assessment. The outcome was that it was not well regarded by wheelchair users. The isUD (innovative solutions for Universal Design) certification was devised by the inclusive design centre at the University at Buffalo.

Buildings must meet a minimum score of 70-75 points to be certified by isUD. The newly built hotel in Western New York was used as a case study to test the robustness of the isUD certification.

A person's hand is opening the door to a hotel room.

Researchers tested the hotel’s features with three groups of people. They recruited healthy adults, older adults and wheelchair users. The participants wore lapel microphones to verbally record their feelings and experiences as they happened. They were given tasks for the hotel lobby, the room, the bathroom and the public bathroom.

At the end of the experience they were given a questionnaire to document their stress levels and perceptions of usability. The healthy group were concerned with aesthetics such as being able to watch their preferred TV channels. Operating self-closing doors was a common complaint from wheelchair users.

The paper details the methods and results and provides insights into user perspectives across the three groups. Although this hotel had been certified as meeting universal design criteria, not all features were easy to use. Perhaps a score greater than 70-75% is required so that finer design details are included.

The title of the article is, Understanding Hotel Design Priorities for Individuals of Different Physical Ability Levels. Note that in the U.S. the term universal design is used interchangeably with accessibility and has a focus on disability.

From the conclusion

Hotel guests’ expectations varied according to their level of activity. Wheelchair users commented on functional features, such as a walk-in shower. Healthy subjects considered the presence of the provided features as a must and were searching for leisure-oriented or luxurious features. Guests’ demands from a public facility are varied based on the (mis)matches between their abilities and the environment’s features.

Individuals with minimal or no universal design requirements gain benefits from the facility when designed to meet the needs of individuals with severe impairments. Designing for individuals with the most probable impairment supports inclusivity and can be cost beneficial.

This study was designed to encourage hotel managers and stakeholders to recognize universal design and accessibility features as an all-encompassing solution.

From the abstract

This study evaluated the effects of hotel features on perceptions of stress and usability with healthy adults, older adults, and wheelchair users.

Participants completed a guided walkthrough of a hotel that included tasks in the room, bathroom, and lobby. The older adults had the lowest level of perceived stress, whereas the wheelchair users had the lowest rating of usability.

The healthy group had generally positive perspectives on the hotel features, while the wheelchair users had predominantly negative comments. Concerns ranged from concerns, such as not having access to preferred television shows (healthy group), to difficulty with accessibility of basic room features such as stepping into the shower area (older adults) and opening the room door (wheelchair users).

Although inclusive design may pose a challenge to hotel designers, all guests should have access to basic features

Accessibility Toolbar