Maybe you remember trying not to be noticed in middle school? Or maybe you remember all the crazy things you did just to fit in during your high school years? We may feel more confident in our identity as we get older, but there are some things that remain the same:
1) We all want to be treated with equality.
2) We all want to feel included.
There Is No Such Thing As "Normal"
According to the U.S. Census data, 26% (or 1:4 people) in the U.S. have a disability. That number may surprise you because most disabilities are NOT immediately obvious or even visible. Many disabilities including neurological disorders, diabetes, traumatic brain injuries, auto-immune disorders, low vision, and neuropathy (lack of sensation) are just a few disorders that may not be visible but greatly impact a person's abilities!
So, if people are so unique, why do we design so many spaces that lack flexibility?
Why not design spaces for easier use?
Why not design controls and tools that requires less strength, force and coordination?
Why not create spaces that do not require so much effort and balance to navigate?
Why not create systems that are instinctual to use instead of requiring complicated directions, practice and user-error to figure out?
That, my friends, is what UNIVERSAL DESIGN does!
Universal Design is the closest you will get "one size fits all" in the world of spatial design.
Universal Design is NOT accessible design.
Universal Design IS inclusive design.
Universal Design = Inclusive Design
Universal design in built on the premise of equality and inclusion. A space designed correctly offers dignity and equality not just by including those of different abilities (ie. accessibility) but by allowing those of different abilities to use the space and products IN THE SAME WAY AS EVERYBODY ELSE.
Universal design eliminates situations that someone with a disability may experience, such as:
- being forced to enter through the back alley loading dock to get into the theater.
- declining to having a drink with their friends due to the lack of bathroom accessibility at the restaurant or home.
- being excluded from a family celebration due to lack of access to the home.
Universal Design: What is it?
Universal Design is a design strategy that is meant to be intuitive and usable by the widest range of people and abilities possible. This design method accounts for variation and diversity in mobility, cognition, coordination, education, and age.
Universal Design should be:
- Stylish (not institutionalized)
- Inclusive (everyone can use)
The principles of Universal Design are for new construction as well as renovations and can be incorporated into every home designed for long-term use.
Let Get Specific
Now that you have a general idea of what Universal Design is all about, let's talk about everyday examples of Universal Design.
Examples, such as the ones pictured above, are:
- Ergonomical (they are created to be used in a natural posture and body position)
- Do NOT require a lot of coordination or strength to use
- You can look at the item and know what to do with it (for the most part)
- The items are easy to use
These may be everyday household items but when designed with creative consideration, they go from basic to brilliant!
Smart technology has made major contributions to inclusive design. Smart tech tools are user friendly and do not require special adaptations for those with different abilities to utilize. They are intuitive to use and uncomplicated to operate. Best of all they create independence and equality for all who use smart technology!
AI Home Devices Smart Tech Lawn Mower Smart Tech Vacuum
*More to come on inclusive design and smart tech in upcoming posts!
It is possible to create spaces that are designed to meet a wide variety of people and abilities without special accommodation. When possible, look for solutions that do not differentiate those with different abilities. When we focus on inclusive design, the accessibility issues naturally solve themselves.
So next time you are designing or redesigning a space, be intentional and creative about the colors, layout, spatial planning, function, etc. Talk to an expert in Universal design + accessibility and keep an open mind for out-of-the-box ideas!