What is "universal design?"
It's design that's usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

People often think it's just for individuals with disabilities. That's a misconception.
But that's what happens when people affected by disability finally get included.

1

“Design that’s usable by all people…”

The challenge of designing for “all people” is including the myriad of individuals and families affected by disability while ensuring that the design is appealing and useful for everyone. Universal design isn’t strictly about disability, but it wouldn’t exist if disability didn’t exist.

Who does “all people” include?


2

“To the greatest extent possible…”

Something that’s universally designed will work for as many people as possible, regardless of variations in communication, mobility, hearing, vision, cognition, and/or mental health, throughout every stage of the human lifespan.

This is a challenge to explore just how far we can go with functional usability for as many people as possible without including features that are specific to a narrow group of users, especially when working within certain constraints.


3

“Without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

Adaptation is a process in which an individual has to change the way he or she typically interacts with something. Specialized design is for a specific demographic or need. Universal design is inclusive to any generation someone belongs to or a health condition that someone may have.

Credit:

Black & white photo of Ron MaceRon Mace (1941-1998) was an architect, product designer, educator, and consultant. He is best known for coining the term “universal design” in 1985, and for his work advocating for people with disabilities. He used a wheelchair most of his life due to polio.
Read our fictional interview with Ron on Medium.

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