Universal Design, commonly abbreviated as UD, is the cornerstone of the befitting approach to home and neighborhood improvements. The term UD, coined by Architect Ronald L. Mace, describes a group of design principles which he and a group of colleagues developed.
In its original form there are 7 founding principles that characterize UD.
- Equitable Use – does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users
- Flexibility of Use – accommodates a wide range of preferences and abilities
- Simple & Intuitive Use – does not depend on user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or concentration
- Perceptible Information – ambient conditions or user sensory ability does not negatively impact use
- Tolerance for Error – minimum hazards results from accidental or unintended actions
- Low Physical Efforts Size – efficient, comfortable use with minimum fatigue
- Space for Approach and Use – user’s size, posture or mobility does not negatively impact use
Applying UD to the process of designing the built environment, including all the buildings, products and services therein, ensures usability by everybody regardless of age, ability or disability without the need for further adaptation. Today, these principles have influenced countless diverse products used by all, such as public access machines, digital displays, smart cards, online services and information, personal mobile devices, and the means of and equipment used in public transportation.
At the community level, there is an international effort that began in 2006 by the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program, to support jurisdictions to prepare for the rapid rise in age and size of populations. AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities Program is advancing these efforts. In the US there are over 300 such communities joining in to transform their towns to be more livable.