Quotable quotes on universal design

There are many definitions and explanations of universal design. But sometimes the way people talk about it expresses it better. Here are some quotable quotes on universal design.

This banner was hanging at the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA) located at the University at Buffalo in 2004. The text reads,

The essence of universal design lies in its ability to create beauty and mediate extremes without destroying differences in places, experiences, and things”. Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick, Designers. 

Wall banner saying The essence of universal design lies in its ability to create beauty and mediate extremes without destroying differences in places, experiences and things

Accessibility vs universal design

Ed Steinfeld explains the difference between accessibility and universal design in, “The space of accessibility and universal design”, in the book, Rethinking Disability and Human Rights:

“Accessibility is a compensatory strategy conceived to prevent discrimination while universal design seeks to change the consciousness of those who create the built environment to address a broader conception of the human body.”

The website of Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) explains:

“In simple terms, design thinking is about recognizing the designer’s methods for connecting the user’s needs with what is technologically possible and which provides a real market value. 

Apple is well-known for making their products really easy to use. Here is a quote from Steve Jobs, former CEO, Apple.

“Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.”

The universal design conference held in Dublin 2018 began with the words, Good Design Enables. Bad Design Disables. The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has a good, but wordy description of universal design.

Slide at a conference with the words, good design enable. Bad design disables.


The text in the sign by Arthur Chan says:

  • Diversity is a fact.
  • Equity is a choice.
  • Inclusion is an action.
  • Belonging is an outcome.

They are all are part of a universal design approach.

The signboard says, Diversity is a fact, Equity is a choice, Inclusion is an action Belonging is an outcome.

The late Judith Heumann has quoted this many times. She also said it is easier to change the design of the environment that to change attitudes. Her TEDx talk is worth a look.

“There are only two kinds of people in the world: people with disability and people yet to have a disability.”

Quote from Christina Mallon, Microsoft’s head of inclusive design: The end goal? “It’s that inclusive design becomes the only way to design, so that my job as an inclusive designer is just a designer. I want my job to go away.” From FastCompany article.

Overheard at a workshop: “So if you design for the extremes you include the middle”

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