Our primary focus here at The Universal Design Project is increasing collaboration between designers and people who have professional and/or personal experience with disabilities.
We’d love to solely focus on providing opportunities for people to experience universal design in-person. We want people near and far to embrace the idea of universal design so their communities can be more welcoming, especially to people affected by disability. The problem is that these things won’t happen if we, collectively as a society, can’t seem to get universal design right.
I’m not saying there’s not some good designs out there, but the term “universal design” seems to be trendy to slap on something if there’s a feature or two that might be functional for someone who uses a wheelchair. This is shameful because so many other users are overlooked.
We’ve yet to meet a designer who knows how to accommodate “all people, to the greatest extent possible” on their own. If a designer wants to really do universal design well, he/she needs to realize that there’s a lot of people with a lot of different & complex needs out there, and that he/she needs help figuring out the best way to accommodate “all people.”
This isn’t a fault of the design industry. Universal design, as a process, is complicated. Designers need to collaborate with those who truly understand the functional needs of the end users. This necessitates the involvement of professionals in health and human service fields, as well as people who have life experience with various disabilities.
It’s okay to work together. The well-being of our society depends on it.