Universal Design Policy: Where to start?

Front cover of the Norwegian Action Plan
Front cover of the Norwegian action plan

The real value of taking a universal design approach is the way it draws everything together. But usually different parts of an organisation have different inclusion policies. These are often treated as an add-on for a special “inclusion department”. But inclusion is everyone’s business. That means one policy across the board. So, where to start when trying to bring a cohesive approach? What about a universal design policy that overarches other policies?

Norway was the first to devise such a policy more than twenty years ago. It has evolved to include all aspects of life. It drives all other policies. Here are three documents to help you get going.

Norway Universally Designed 2025 is an action plan for implementing universal design throughout the built environment as a start. The document is evolving and now includes just about everything including communications technology. They key was to look at policies first and make everyone responsible. This one is good for planners. 

Hobson’s Bay City Council has a short policy statement which is a great model for local government. 

The European Union devised a document that has as a useful framework with action points for 15 domains. It was devised some years ago, but the concept of universal design hasn’t changed much since then. A page from an earlier European Union document encapsulates the key points in one page. 

For a more comprehensive approach, the Sustainable Development Goals are also useful. This is because they include social sustainability and the need to be inclusive.