Universal design has been described by the late Ron Mace, one of the founders of the universal design movement as “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.”

Universal design is a design movement that is steadily growing as awareness increases.

At the end of the 20th century, the world is very different than 100 years ago. People are living longer and surviving better. Potential consumers of design who may be functionally limited by age or disability are increasing at a dramatic rate. These populations are no longer an insignificant or silent minority.

The current generation of children, baby boomers entering middle age, older adults, people with disabilities, and individuals inconvenienced by circumstance, constitute a market majority. All of these constituencies and indeed, all consumers, deserve to be recognized and respected. Facilities, devices, services, and programs must be designed to serve an increasingly diverse clientele.

The demographic, legislative, economic, and social changes that brought us to this point are increasing the momentum that will propel us into the 21st century that will need to be more accommodating of individual differences. Universal design provides a blueprint for maximum inclusion of all people.

These quotes have been sourced from Universal Design History

During 1997 a working group at the North Carolina State University developed the 7 Principles of Universal Design. The group, led by Ron Mace, consisted of a number of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers. The purpose of the Principles was to “guide the design of environments, products, and communications”.

The Center for Universal Design (CUD) was subsequently formed within the North Carolina State University. The CUD goals were to provide national information, technical assistance, and act as a research center to evaluate, develop, and promote accessible and universal design in the built environment and in products.  The Centers mission “is to improve environments and products through design innovation, research, education and design assistance.

The 7 Principles are:

  • Principle 1: Equitable Use
  • Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
  • Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
  • Principle 4: Perceptible Information
  • Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
  • Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
  • Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use