A framework to understand universal design

Picture of three young women wearing hard hats and holding pens and looking at a drawing on a table topIf there was an assessment tool for access and inclusion, would this encourage designers to think about population diversity in their designs?  If the answer is ‘yes’ then this will be a step forward. But would such a tool become yet another checklist for designers? But perhaps a simple framework to understand universal design would be useful for design and evaluation.

Erica Isa Mosca and Stefano Capolongo embarked on a research study to find such a framework. Their first paper was published in 2018. It is titled, Towards a Universal Design Evaluation for Assessing the Performance of the Built Environment. They concluded that the involvement of users as well as methods such as checklists were needed for the next step.

The next step was a literature review. The researchers’ quest was to find ways to provide design information to architects so that they could go beyond access standards. The literature review is titled, Inspiring architects in the application of Design-for-All: Knowledge transfer methods and tools

The researchers found four criteria which were critical for translating user needs into design strategies. The diagram below shows the four criteria. Using these criteria, the researchers developed an evaluation framework. 

Graphic of four criteria based on How, What, Why, Where.

The final stage of the research project produced a useful framework for designers. This framework is about performance and assessing the built environment beyond access codes. The framework aligns with the current universal design thinking by including the concepts of co-design. The framework is shown in the diagram below. 

A diagram that shows the three key areas and how they overlap to create universal design.There is more on this framework in another CUDA post titled, Universal design evaluation framework. 

Universal design evaluation framework