Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.
The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by the late Ronald Mace in the North Carolina State University.The purpose of the Principles is to guide the design of environments, products and communications. According to the Center for Universal Design in NCSU, the Principles “may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.”
Principle 1: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. For example, a 36-in. wide door, which is wide enough for a wheelchair but also wide enough to allow in extra light and ease of use. And barrier-free shower is another good example which allows a wheelchair to roll in smoothly.
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. For example, an oven with a French door that can open from either direction. The other good examples include the full-extension pull-out shelves in the cabinets, the dishwasher drawers, under-counter microwave ovens, refrigerator drawers,etc…
Principle 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. This includes lights that are motion-enabled and do not require any outside exertion from the homeowner. Also, voice-controlled devices are a good example. The on-trend induction oven delivers fast cooktop heat and superb simmering and it is very easy to use for wide ages of people.
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. Any words should be large and easy to read.
Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. U-shaped handles on cabinets allow for people with dexterity issues to easily grab.
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. Lever handles are easier to turn than knobs. The smart toilet is a good example too.
Principle 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. A multi-level counter makes it easy to sit or stand, depending on the client’s needs at the time.
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