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Universal Design. Products and Environments for All Jocelyn Freilinger MLA Associate ASLA. Demographics: Disability & Aging. at least 36 million Americans have permanent disabilities. 46% of those over 65 years of age have limited or severe disabilities.

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universal design
Universal Design

Products and Environments for All

Jocelyn Freilinger MLA

Associate ASLA

demographics disability aging
Demographics: Disability & Aging
  • at least 36 million Americans have permanent disabilities.
  • 46% of those over 65 years of age have limited or severe disabilities.
  • 37 million people have arthritic conditions that are disabling.
  • In 2005, 36.8 million seniors represented 12.4% of the population.
  • By 2030, that number will be about 71.5 million, or 20% of the population.
what is universal design
What is Universal Design?

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

–Ron Mace

design of products and environments occurs in many different design disciplines including
Design of Products and Environments occurs in many different Design Disciplines, including:
  • Industrial Design (products)
  • Graphic Design/Graphic User Interface
  • Interior Design
  • Exhibit Design
  • Architecture
  • Landscape Architecture
design bias via physical and sensory experiences
Design Bias via Physical and Sensory Experiences

Ching, Frank. Architectural Graphics. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1975.

universal design is different from ada accessibility guidelines
Universal Design is different from ADA Accessibility Guidelines:
  • Not about legally mandated guidelines
  • ADA Focuses on physical access and safety
  • ADA is based on “standard” anthropometrics

We Need a Paradigm Shift !

  • Designed for easy, inexpensive production
  • Costs about $1
  • Designed for comfortable grip even when wet
  • Costs about $8
related concepts
Related Concepts


Human-centered Design

Lifespan Design


the principles of universal design
The Principles of Universal Design*

There are seven principles which may be used to:

  • *V. 2.0 Compiled by advocates of universal design, listed in alphabetical order: Bettye Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story, & Gregg Vanderheiden
  • evaluate existing designs
  • guide the design process
  • educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.
1 equitable use
1.Equitable Use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

  • Provide the same means of use for all users; identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.
  • Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.
  • Make provisions for privacy, security, and safety equally available to all users.
  • Make the design appealing to all users.
2 flexibility in use
2.Flexibility in Use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

  • Provide choice in methods of use.
  • Accommodate right- or left- handed access and use.
  • Facilitate the user’s accuracy and precision.
  • Provide adaptability
3 simple and intuitive use
3.Simple and Intuitive Use

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
  • Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.
  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.
  • Arrange information consistent with its importance.
  • Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion
4 perceptible information
4.Perceptible Information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
  • Maximize “legibility” of essential information.
  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.
5 tolerance for error
5.Tolerance for Error

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

  • Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
  • Provide warnings of hazards and errors.
  • Provide fail safe features.
  • Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.
6 low physical effort
6.Low Physical Effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

  • Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
  • Use reasonable operating forces.
  • Minimize repetitive actions.
  • Minimize sustained physical effort.
7 size and space for approach and use
7.Size and Space for Approach and Use

Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

  • Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
  • Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
  • Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.
  • Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.
  • How can you apply the Principles of Universal Design in your field of interest?
  • Can this approach successfully address situations where people might have different needs that are challenging to reconcile?
  • How would you situate the ideas promoted by Universal Design within the discourse of disability advocacy?

“Accessible Environments: Toward Universal Design” by Ronald L. Mace, Graeme J. Hardie, Jaine P. Place in Design Intervention: Toward a More Humane Architecture, Preiser, Vischer and White, eds. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1991.

Adaptive Environments http://www.adaptiveenvironments.org

The Center for Universal Design (1997) The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University

The Center for Universal Design http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/


Seattle and King County Aging and Disability Services: http://www.agingkingcounty.org/design_for_everyone.htm

Universal Design Handbook, Preiser and Ostroff, eds., New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001.