Learning about the goals of universal design

logo for IDEA center at Buffalo. Universal Design.In 2012, the IDEA Center at the University at Buffalo updated the classic 7 Principles of Universal Design. Based on research they expressed them as measurable outcomes, goals, rather than principles. They also introduced new concepts such as health and wellbeing and cultural inclusion. Hence, the 8 Goals of Universal Design.  

More recently, they produced a video lecture that explains the 8 goals in more detail. The video comes with a full transcript, some of which is shown below. Note that it’s common in some countries for universal design to be shortened to ‘UD’. CUDA prefers to express universal design in lower case so that it is easier to think of universal design as a process rather than a thing. 


From the transcript:

Edward Steinfeld and Jordana Maisel of the IDEA Center researched and devised the 8 goals. They describe it as a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation. UD reduces stigma and provides benefits for all users.

So, where did universal design come from? Well over the last 40+ years, significant efforts have been made to increase inclusivity and accessibility in the built environment through legislation.

Although accessibility laws have helped, UD aims to go further to better support the needs of all people. The goals of universal design were built on the foundation of the 7 Principles of Universal Design.

Universal design and accessibility are different concepts and are often confused. Universal design goes beyond the minimal requirements of accessibility and aims to address the needs of more diverse stakeholders.

 Accessibility implies compliance with minimum codes and other standards while universal design aims to achieve access for all by eliminating barriers.

The IDEA Center expanded the conceptual framework of universal design to go beyond usability to include social participation and health and wellness. The eight goals are grounded in research and expressed as measurable outcomes.

They include four goals oriented to human performance, each focusing on one of the four areas of knowledge, including: anthropometry, biomechanics, perception, and cognition. Three other goals address social participation outcomes.

Wellness, and goal number 5, is the bridge that addresses both human performance and social participation.

The video explains the 8 goals in more detail with examples and concludes with an introduction to a certification program, isUD. 

Universal design concepts have continued to evolve and co-design processes are now emerging as the method for creating designs for all.