Universal Design Principles

Learn the seven guidelines you need to know to plan rooms that are accessible to all people.
By: Kristen Hampshire

By definition, Universal Design is the making of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The idea is to design a room that is functional for any able-bodied individual (regardless of age) and a person who has special needs because of physical limitations.

When incorporating Universal Design, understand these seven principles as envisioned by Ron Mace, the founder of The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University:

Equitable Use. The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users and is marketable to people with diverse abilities.

Flexibility in Use. The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences (i.e. left or right handed) and abilities and provides choice in methods of use.

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; eliminates unnecessary complexity.

Perceptible Information. The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities; uses pictures, audible or tactical methods.

Tolerance for Error. The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended fatigue; elements most used should be most accessible, or fail-safe features included.

Low Physical Effort. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum level of fatigue.

Appropriate Size and Space. The appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture or mobility.

If you have multiple generations living under one roof, consider applying these principles when renovating any room in your home, from the kitchen to the bathroom.

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