College of Education and Health Professions

Universal Design

The term "Universal Design" was coined by the architect Ronald L. Mace to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.

The Center for Universal Design (link to their page) established seven principles for the universal design of products and environments:

  1. Equitable use - The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in use - The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  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.
  4. Perceptible information - The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for error - The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low physical effort - The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and space for approach and use - Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Here are examples of Universal Design in various aspects of life.

In Architecture

Pull out cabinets in the kitchen
Pull out cabinets in the kitchen
Open bathroom design
Open bathroom design
Multi-level work surfaces in the kitchen
Multi-level work surfaces in the kitchen

In Everyday Objects

Automatic Toothbrush
Automatic Toothbrush
Velcro
Velcro
Bendable Drinking Straws
Bendable Drinking Straws

In the Community

Multi-use lanes
Multi-use lanes
Natural barriers between walkers and cars to increase safely and ease of use
Natural barriers between walkers
and cars to increase safely
and ease of use

In Healthcare

Adjustable height exam table
Adjustable height exam table
Wheelchair scale
Wheelchair scale

At the Office

Advertise accessible communication
Advertise accessible communication
Reception counters accessible for all users
Reception counters accessible for all users

In Technology

Computers
Computers
Audio Books
Audio Books

In Education

Touch screen computer
Touch screen computer
Multiple means of instruction
Multiple means of instruction

The Partners in Planning collaborative group in Arkansas funded, designed, and constructed a universally designed bathroom in a 18' Race Car Trailer. The exhibit was designed to educate the public about Universal Design and how it can translate into more usability and independence in the home.

Universal Design Trailer

Partners for Inclusive Communities