The goals of universal design

Steinfeld and Maisel devised the 8 Goals of Universal Design in 2012 as a way of making the 7 Principles more practical. That was more than 10 years ago. The concepts of universal design are evolving so it’s time to take another look.

A group of five passionate universal design campaigners in Poland have a great page on their website with their version of the goals of universal design.

Everyone constantly interacts with the space around them and relies on their senses. Our senses and physical abilities change, affecting the way we perceive, use and interact with the environment around us. 

  • Sight – what do we see?
  • Hearing – what do we hear?
  • Touch – what do we touch?
  • Cognition – What do we understand?
  • Movement – how do we move our body?
A woman in a bright yellow coat and black hat is walking away from the camera down a street.

A group of five passionate universal design campaigners in Poland have a great page on their website with their version of the goals of universal design. You might have to activate Google translate to get the page in English.

8 Goals refined

Here are the slight tweaks to the wording in Magdalena Storozhenko-Polak’s version compared to the original.

Magdalena Version

Body adaptation:  takes into account the different body sizes and abilities of users.

Comfort:  reduces the effort needed to use the product or space.

Readability : ensures that the most important information is easy and accessible to everyone to understand.

Intuitive:  makes project operation logical and easy to learn.

Well-being: promotes health and prevents disease and injury.

Social inclusion : ensures that all groups have the opportunity to use spaces and activities.

Personalization : gives users the ability to tailor the design to their individual needs and preferences.

Taking into account cultural diversity: designs solutions appropriate for a given cultural circle, respecting its values ​​and socio-environmental context.

Original Version

Body fit: accommodating a wide range of body sizes and abilities

Comfort: keeping demands within desirable limits of body function and perception

Awareness: ensuring that critical information for use is easily perceived

Understanding: making methods of operation and use intuitive, clear and unambiguous.

Wellness: contributing to health promotion, avoidance of disease and protection from hazards.

Social integration: treating all groups with dignity and respect.

Personalization: incorporating opportunities for choice and the expression of individual preferences.

Cultural appropriateness: respecting and reinforcing cultural values and the social and environmental context of any design project.

(Steinfeld, Maisel, 2012)

Magdalena’s website explains each of the goals in more detail with photographic examples. There is a lot of other useful information on this website in blog posts. Check for Google translate.

However the goals and principles are devised and written, they should be taken in context of co-design and co-creation processes with users. They are a guide, rather than a checklist for designers.

Adapting the goals

The Everyone Can Play guide is a good example of adapting the goals to suit the context of the project, in this case, playspaces.

The six guiding design principles are: Find, Fit, Choose, Join In, Thrive, and Belong

Six design principles of Everyone Can Play: Find, Fit, Choose, Join In, Thrive, Belong.

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