"We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability." - Stevie Wonder
Universal design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible, understood and used by everybody, including older people and people with disabilities.
In 2015, almost 1 in 5 Australians reported living with a disability and 1 in 7 Australians were aged 65 years and over. The importance and incorporation of Universal Design will only continue to grow in Australia and across the world.
The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 in the North Carolina State University. The purpose of the Principles is to guide the design of environments, products and communications.
Principle #1: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. It provides the same means of use for all users, avoids segregating users, provides privacy, security, safety and availability, and makes the design appealing to all users.
An example of this principle in action is powered doors with sensors in shopping centres. This is convenient for all shoppers, and for individuals with physical disabilities.
Principle #2: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities, such as right- or left-handed access and adaptability to user's pace.
An example of this principle in action is a pair of large-grip scissors which accommodates use with either hand and allows alternation between the two.
Principle #3: Simple and Intuitive Use
The use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills or education level.
An example of this principle in action is a public emergency station that uses emergency colours and a simple design to quickly convey function.
Principle #4: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
An example of this principle in action is a mobile phone keypad that has small bumps which tell the user where important keys are without requiring the user to look at the keys.
Principle #5: Tolerance for Error
The design minimises hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
An example of this principle in action is a lip or kerb at the sides of a ramp which reduces the risk of slipping and falling, or a clothes iron that turns off automatically after 5 minutes of non-use.
Principle #6: Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.
An example of this principle in action is a door lever that can be operated with a closed fist or elbow, or a garden hose nozzle with a locking trigger which eliminates the need for sustained squeezing.
Principle #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.
An example of this principle in action is a wide-opening vehicle door which provides ample space for those using wheelchairs or walkers.
John Barletta is the Managing Director of All Care Construction, a provider of expert home modifications, maintenance and structural renovations based in Adelaide, South Australia. His mission is to enhance the capacity and quality of life of our clients through the provision of tailored accessibility solutions.