Universal design is invisible

The entry to Stortinget metro in Olso showing the uncluttered design with easy access for everyone.
Stortinget Metro Station

Universal design is invisible: that is, until it is not there. Refurbishments and upgrades to buildings can embed universal design without anyone noticing. Using a case study of a train station in Norway, Richard Duncan explains how it was done.

Duncan’s article, Right Under Your Nose: Universal Design in Norway is an easy to read article and is based on Olav Rand Bringa’s work. When done well, universal design minimises the need for separate designs for people with disability. For example, ‘accessible’ exit routes were previously signed with the international symbol. In the new scheme, many of the signs were removed. Yet travellers with disability did not comment on their absence. The design itself indicated where to go. 

And there is more…

There is more in the article about the work of Bringa that traces the history of universal design in Norway. Two surveys from 2018 reveal a gradual change in attitude about universal design. More people understand the concept and agree with the principle of, “Universal design is necessary for some and useful for many”. 

Norway is a global leader in implementing UD strategies. Their landmark document, Norway Universally Designed by 2025, focuses on inclusive policies where everyone is made responsible.

Olav Bringa has written several articles beginning in 1999 when Norway first embraced universal design principles. They are:

Universal Design and Visitability: From accessibility to zoning.  It’s Chapter 6.

Progress on Universal Design in Norway: A review 

Universal Design as a Technical Norm and Juridical Term – A Factor of Development or Recession? Bringa discusses the importance of language in the quest for inclusion. It’s open access.

Richard Duncan has written a similar article on the invisibility of good universal design. This one is about automatic doors. 

Photo by Olav Rand Bringa showing the improved and uncluttered entrance to the station.