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Maximizing Usability: The Principles of Universal


Molly Follette Story M.S.

To cite this article: Molly Follette Story M.S. (1998) Maximizing Usability: The Principles of
Universal Design, Assistive Technology, 10:1, 4-12, DOI: 10.1080/10400435.1998.10131955

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Published online: 22 Oct 2010.

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Asst Technol1 998;10:4-12

Maximizing Usability: The Principles of

Universal Design

Molly Follette Story, M.S.

Th e Center for Universal Design , S chool of Design , Nort h Caroli na S tate Unive rsity, Raleigh , Nort h Caroli na

The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina TYPES OF ACCESSIBLE DESIGN
State University has developed a set of seven Princi-
ples of Universal Design that may be used to guide the Accessible design can be defined as design that
design process, to evaluate existing or new designs, meets prescribed code requirements for use by peo-
and to teach students and practitioners. This article ple with disabilities (Center for Accessible Hous-
presents preceding design guidelines and evaluation ing, 1991). Because it is often achieved by provid-
criteria, describes the process of developing the Prin- ing separate design features for "special" user
ciples, lists The Principles of Universal Design and
groups, it can segregate people with disabilities
provides examples of designs that satisfy each, and
suggests future developments that would facilitate ap-
from the majority of users and make them feel out
plying the Principles to assess the usability of all types of place. Examples of accessible design include
of products and environments. ramps alongside entrances with stairs; oversized
Ke y Words: Universal design-Principles of uni- paddle blade handles on large, lowered sinks in
versal design-Design guidelines-Evaluation crite- public re strooms; and auxiliary tactile signage.
ria-Assistive technology. These solutions can be stigmatizing and costly,
sometimes added on to existing designs or even to
new construction at the end of the design process.
When added on later, accessible features reflect
the designers' failure to consider people with lim-
Universal design can be defined as the design of itations until after the fact , often until forced to by
products and environments that can be used and law.
experienced by people of all ages and abilities, to Universal design is always accessible, but be-
the greatest extent possible , without adaptation cause it integrates accessibility from the beginning
(Center for Accessible Housing, 1995). In the best of the design process, it is less likely to be notice-
examples, universal design features go unnoticed able.
because they have been fully integrated into Adaptable design features are modifications
thoughtful design solutions that are used by a full made to a standard design for the purpose ofmak-
spectrum of the population. Successfully designed ing the design usable for an individual, as needed
universal solutions do not call attention to them- (Center for Accessible Housing, 1991). Some ex-
selves as being anything more than easier for ev- amples of adaptable design are base cabinets that
eryone to use, which is exactly what they are. De- are removable from under bathroom sinks, volume
sign s that were developed with consideration for controls for attaching to telephones, and large
the needs of a diverse population work for men and grips for adding to kitchen utensils. Like accessible
women , children and elders, small people and designs, adaptable design features sometimes look
large, and people with temporary or longer-term tacked on, are stigmatizing, and add expense.
disabilities. They work when it's dark, noisy , wet, Universal design sometimes employs adaptable
or when we're tired. Everyone benefits. strategies for achieving customization, but it is
best when all choices are presented equally. Ex-
Address correspo ndence and reprint re quests to Molly Follet te amples include a height-adjustable cooktop that
Story, M.S., 16438 East Dorado Avenue, Aurora , CO 80015. can move between low for short or seated cooks and

Not all accessible design is universal. Design s
that fall within the relm of "accessible" but outside
of "univer sal" exlude some users, such as a control
panel with large membrane switches that suit peo-
ple with limited manual control but not people who
are blind. Univer sal design is the most inclusive
and least stigmatizing of the three typ es of acces-
sible design because it addresses all types of hu-
man variation and accessibility is integrated into
design solutions .


There are three ways to enhance an individual' s

capabilities: change the person, provid e the indi-
vidual with tools he or she can use, or change the
environment (Vanderheiden, 1997).
The first approach requires the most of the in-
dividual. It involves surgery to change the body it-
FIG . 1. Relationshi p bet ween access ible, ad aptabl e, self, therapy to change what the body can do, and!
transge nerationa l, a nd uni ver sal design . or training in adaptive techniques to change how
the person behaves.
The second approach, providing the individual
high for tall and standing cooks, or a choice ofover- with tools he or she can use, utilizes assisti ve tech-
lays for a microwave control panel, such as braille nology. Assistive technology can be defined as an y
(for those who cannot see but know braille), tactile device that makes it easier or possible for someon e
(for tho se who don't know braille), or smooth (for to use a product or environment or to accomplish
eas ier cleaning if low vision is not a concern ). a task that would otherwise be impossible or at
Tr an sgenerational design , sometimes called life- lea st more difficult . Some assistive technologies,
span design, is design that considers the changes such as eyegla sses, hearing aids, or leg pr ostheses,
tha t happen to people as they age (Pirkl, 1994). Be- are devices worn by individuals to help them in a
cause it does not specifically address congenital general way as they go about their dail y lives. Oth-
conditions or changes that may happen as a result er technologies, such as magnifying gla sses,
of an injury or illness, transgenerational design sound-amplifying TV headphones, or walking
does not necessarily address the full range of pos- canes, are tools used by individuals to accomplish
sible disabilities nor other factor s that affect us- specific tasks.
ability, such as gender differences, cultural back- The third approach, changing the environment
ground, and literacy level. Some universal design to make it ea sier to use, would include lower ed
is tran sgenerational, but the approach is inclusive kitchen sinks with open knee space below, tactile
of more than just age-related disabilities. lettering or symbols on signage or products, and
Uni ver sal design , then, is sometimes adaptable open or closed captioning on television and video
and sometimes transgenerational but alway s ac- programming.
cessible. The relationship between th e four types The se are all methods of adaptation, although
of design can be illu strated as shown in Figure 1. the three categories above are list ed in decrea sing
Figure 1 shows a large circle labeled "Accessible order of how much they require of the indi vidual.
Design ." Within it are three small circles , and por- The implications of the change of focus are signif-
tions of each small circle overlap the other two; in icant and have a major impact on people's inde-
the center , all three overlap. The three small cir- pendence and self image. Universal design applies
cles are labeled "Adaptable Design ," "Transgener- to the third approach, changing the built environ-
ational Design ," and "Universal Design ." Thi s di- ment, which includes everyday products, build-
agram illustrates that universal design , adaptable ings , and outdoor environments. Its goal is to min-
design , and transgenerational design are all sub- imize the need to change the individual or employ
sets of accessible design. Sometimes a design can as sistive technology and to make everyone's use of
be considered to be two of these subsets , and some products and environments as smooth as possible.
designs are all three. Universal design strives to minimize the amount


of adaptation required of the individual and max- asked consumers to evaluate the criteria and help
imize their natural inclusion in daily activities of amend them for use by the RERC-TET in their
all kinds. product evaluations (Lane, Usiak, & Moffatt, 1996;
Lane, Usiak, Stone, & Scherer, 1997). Their re-
DESIGN GUIDELINES AND EVALUATION sulting 11 criteria, condensed from the Batavia
CRITERIA and Hammer criteria, are
How is assistive technology designed? A number • effectiveness,
of groups have published guidelines for the devel- • affordability,
opment of various specific technologies, most no- • reliability,
tably those contained in the Telecommunications • portability,
Act of 1996 (Telecommunications Access Advisory • durability,
Committee, 1997). Several references contain cri- • securability,
teria for telephones (Fr ancik, 1996; Pacific Bell, • physical security/safety,
1995), consumer electronic products (Elect ronics • learnability,
Industries Association & Electronic Industries • physical comfortJacceptance,
Foundation, 1996), accessible Internet web sites • ease of maintenance/repairability, and
(Vanderheiden & Lee, 1988), or computer software • operability.
(Vanderheiden, 1994). Staff at Honeywell (1992) These criteria are helpful in developing and eval-
wrote some preliminary Human Factors Design uating designs that address issues identified by
Guidelines for the Elderly and People with Dis - consumers as being the most important to them
abilities that address when purchasing and living with as sisti ve devices .
• controls, They cover all aspects of ownership and use.
• visual displays, Universal design has suffered from a lack of de-
• auditory displays, fining criteria such as these for assistive devices.
• functional allocation and panel layout, and It has been communicated most often through ci-
• operating protocol. tation of good examples of the concept rather than
concrete description of its characteristics.
Although incomplete, they represent one compa- For example, Ronald L. Mace, founder and Pro-
ny's noteworthy attempt to serve a broader mar- gram Director at The Center for Universal Design
ket. Vanderheiden and Vanderheiden (1992) de- at North Carolina State University, advocates pre-
veloped a set of excellent guidelines for the design senting a hierarchy of universal design examples,
of consumer products, addressing from designs requiring the least amount of inter-
action with users to ones requiring the most. He
• outputJdisplays,
uses doors as an example. His hierarchy of inter-
• inputJcontrols,
action ranges from no door (just an opening in a
• manipulations,
wall) to powered doors triggered by motion detec-
• documentation, and
tors, sensor mats, or push buttons to non powered
• safety.
doors that must be pu shed or pulled. Doors with no
They offer specific recommendations to improve latch are easier to open than ones with lever door
the accessibility of a wide range of products. handles, which are easier than ones with round
Other published guidelines address the needs of doorknobs; non powered doors with automatic clos-
specific groups of users, such as those publi shed by ing mechanisms require still more force to open
The Lighthouse for legible text for people with low and pass through. At the bottom of Mace's hier-
vision (Arditi, 1997a, 1997b). All of these guide- archy is the manual revolving door, which requires
lines are useful for improving the accessibility of strength, constant maneuvering, and accurate
the specific product areas addressed. timing of when to enter and exit (R. L. Mace, per-
In addition, researchers have developed sets of sonal communication, February 1998).
general design evaluation criteria, most notably While presentation ofthese examples is helpful,
those developed by Batavia and Hammer (1990) it requires audience members to interpret and in-
for the evaluation of assistive devices. Their orig- ternalize the approach for themselves. It demands
inal17 criteria were subsequently reviewed by the substantial commitment of listeners and requires
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center the presenter to offer a very wide range of exam-
(RERC) on Technology Evaluation and Transfer ples to assure that all aspects of the concept have
(RERC-TET) at the University at Buffalo , which been conveyed.


Project staff then convened a working group of
PRINCIPLE ONE: Equitable Use architects, product designers, engineers, and en-
The design is useful and marketabl e to people with vironmental design researchers from other re-
diverse abilities .
search facilitie s to assemble a set of principles of
PRINCIPLE TWO: Flexibility in Use
universal design that would encapsulate the exist-
The design accommodates a wide ran ge of individ-
ual pr efer ences and abilities.
ing knowledge base. The Principles of Universal
PRINCIPLE THREE: Simple and Intuitive Use
Design were established through collaborative ef-
Use of th e design is easy to und erst and, regardless forts from individuals! at several sites, including
of th e user 's experience, kn owledge, lan gua ge the Center for Universal Design, Shepherd Spinal
skills, or current concentration level. Center, J . L. Mueller, Inc., The University at Buf-
PRINCIPLE FOUR: Perceptible Information falo, Trace R&D Center, and Adaptive Environ-
Th e design communicates necessary inform ati on ments Center. They reflect this group's vast collec-
effectively to the user , regardless of ambient con- tive experience in researching and practicing uni-
ditions or th e user's sensory abilities. versal design in the diverse fields they represent.
PRINCIPLE FIVE: Tolerance for Error The principles were independently reviewed by a
The design minimizes ha zards and the ad verse second group of practitioners" to critique, validate,
conse quences of accidental or unintend ed actions . and refine them.
PRINCIPLE SIX: Low Physical Effort The Principles of Universal Design (Center for
Th e design can be used efficiently and comfortably Universal Design, 1997) (Fig. 2) apply to all design
and with a minimum of fatigue .
disciplines and all people and are useful for design,
PRINCIPLE SEVEN: Size and Space for Approach
evaluation, and instruction. Each of the seven
and Use
Appr opriate size and space is provided for ap-
principles has four or five guidelines that elaborate
proach, reach , manipulation, and use regardless of on the concept embodied in it. They can be used to
the user 's body size, posture, or mobility. guide the design process , to evaluate existing or
new designs, and to teach students and practition-
FIG. 2. Th e Principles of Univers al Design , Versi on 2.0,
ers new to the concept what universal design en-
Copyright 1997: North Carolina State University, th e Cen- compasses and how it may be achieved. The prin-
ter for Unive rsal Design . ciples are a work in progress and efforts are on-
going to make them easier to apply.
The Principles of Universal Design are present-
THE PRINCIPLES OF UNIVERSAL DESIGN ed in the following format: name of the principle,
Especially because of its initial emphasis and on- intended to be a concise and easily remembered
going expertise in accessible housing which in- statement of th e key concept embodied in the prin-
volves so many design specialties, the Center for ciple; definition of the principle, a brief description
Universal Design at North Carolina State Univer- of the principle's primary directive for design; and
sity takes a broad view of design for people of all guidelines, a list of the key elements that should
ages and abilities. Their belief is that universal de- be present in a design that adheres to the princi-
sign applies to all design disciplines, from land-
scape design, architecture, and interiors to product
and graphic design and communications. I Primary autho rs of The Pri nciples of Unive rsal Design were (in

alpha bet ical order) Bettye Rose Connell (The Center for Universal
From 1994 to 1997, the Center conducted a re-
Design), Michael L. J ones (Shepherd Spinal Cente r ), Ronald L.
search and demonstration project funded by the Mace (The Cente r for Unive rsa l Design), J ames L. Muelle r (J. L.
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilita- Mueller, Inc.), Abir Mullick (The Unive rsi ty at Buffalo), ElaineO s-
tion Research (NIDRR) titled "Studies to Further troff'(Ada ptive Enviro nments Center), Jon A. Sanford (The Cente r
the Development of Universal Design." Staff of the for Universa l Design), Edwar d Stei nfeld (The Unive rsity at Buf-
falo), Molly Follette Story (The Center for Universal Design ), and
Center for Universal Design conducted a series of
Gregg C. Van der heiden (Trace R&D Center).
evaluations of consumer products, architectural 2 Reviewers of The Prin ciples of Unive rsa l Design were Mer e-
spaces, and building elements. The evaluations in- dith Davis (North Caro lina Sta te University ), Allan Eckhaus
volved site visits, focus groups, observations, and (Consumers Union), Susa n Goltsman (Moore, Iacofano, & Golts-
personal interviews. The purpose of the evalua- man ), Paul Grays on (Environments for Living), Pet er Orlean s (Ar-
chitect ), Mary J o Pet er son (Interior Designer), Vietor Regnier (An -
tions was to determine optimal performance char-
drus Geronto logy Cente r), J ohn Sa lme n (Universal Designers &
act eristics and use features that make products Consulta nts ), Steven Sargent (Consumer Produ ct Test ing Labs),
and environments usable by the greatest diversity Polly Welch (University of Oregon ), and Margaret Wylde (Pro-
of people. Matura Group ).


ple. (Note: all guidelines may not be relevant to all Guidelines:
(3a) Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
Principle One: Equitable Use
(3b) Be consistent with user expectations and in-
The design is useful and marketable to people (Sc) Accommodate a wide range of literacy and
with diverse abilities. language skills.
Guidelines: (3d) Arrange information consistent with its im-
(La) Provide the same means of use for all users: (3e) Provide effective prompting and feedback
identical whenever possible, equivalent when during and after task completion.
(I b) Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users. Example: imported furniture assembly instruc-
(Lc) Make provisions for privacy, security, and tions . An excellent example of simple and intuitive
safety equally available to all users. use is a furniture manufacturer who ships products
(I d) Make the design appealing to all users. allover the world. Rather than print the assembly
instructions in several different languages, they
Example: building entrances . The main en- eliminated text entirely. Instead, they offered a se-
trance to a building (and ideally, all entrances) ries of clear illustrations that match the furniture
should have a well-integrated and level or gently and showed small pieces magnified and exploded
sloping approach, a door that automatically opens, apart in the proper sequence for assembly (Fig. 3).
and a flush or minimal (1,4") threshold. Every visi-
tor to the facility should be able to use the same Principle Four: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary informa-
Principle Two: Flexibility in Use tion effectively to the user, regardless of ambient
conditions or the user's sensory abilitie s.
The design accommodates a wide range of in-
dividual preferences and abilities. Guidelines:
Guidelines: (4a) Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile)
(2a) Provide choice in methods of use. for redundant presentation of essential infor-
(2b) Accommodate right- or left-handed access mation.
and use. (4b) Maximize legibility of essential information.
(2c) Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision. (4c) Differentiate elements in ways that can be de-
(2d) Provide adaptability to the user's pace. scribed (i.e., make it easy to give instructions
or directions).
Example: automated teller machines (ATMs). (4d) Provide compatibility with a variety of tech-
Ideally, the ATM's screen is located where it can niques or devices used by people with sensory
be seen and its control panel can be reached from limitations.
a standing or seated position by tall and short
users; the ATM card slot ha s a tapered opening to Example: computer software. Ideally, informa-
facilitate card insertion by those with limited man- tion is provided in text for those who can read the
ual control; the ATM's buttons are big enough and words , pictorially for those who cannot, and audi-
far enough apart to be pressed accurately by those bly for those who cannot see . The computer should
with limited manual dexterity; its graphics can be work with standard screen enlargement and
read by those with limited vision or felt by those screen reader software and with speakers or head-
with no vision; and the device will provide feed- phones. Technical assistance should be available
back audibly for those who cannot see or read the via e-mail, the telephone, and the postal service.
screen. The process should be achievable by a slow
novice user yet not fru strating to a quick experi- Principle Five: Tolerance for Error
enced user. The design minimizes ha zards and the adverse
consequence s ofaccidental or unintended actions.
Principle Three: Simple and Intuitive Use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regard-
less of the user's experience, knowledge, language (5a) Arrange elements to minimize hazards and
sk ills, or current concentration level. errors: most used elements, most accessible;


FIG. 3. Assembly instructions for imported furniture eliminate translation problems by providing clear illu strations with-
out text.

hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or be easy to open. The bottle and the cap should be
shielded. easy to grip and to turn and involve only a small
(5b) Provide warnings of hazards and errors. range of motion (Fig. 4).
(fie) Provide fail-safe features.
(5d) Discourage unconscious action in tasks that Principle Seven: Size and Space for Approach
require vigilance. and Use

Example: building features . Visitors to a public Appropriate size and space is provided for ap-
place should be able to navigate without risking proach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless
physical danger. A color coding scheme can facili- of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.
tate wayfinding, as can hallways that return to a
common area rather than stop in dead ends; door-
ways to destinations can be painted in colors that
contrast with the adjacent walls while doorways to
private spaces are painted to match them; and
doorknobs on doors that lead to mechanical rooms
and other potentially dangerous spaces can be
locked or abrasively textured.

Principle Six: Low Physical Effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfort-
ably and with a minimum offatigue.
(Ga) Allow user to maintain a neutral body posi-
(6b) Use reasonable operating forces.
(Be) Minimize repetitive actions.
(6d) Minimize sustained physical effort.
FIG. 4. Pain reliever cap ha s big tab and must be turned
Example: medicine bottles. When child protec- only 1J. turn to open. Thi s facilitates grip and minimizes re-
tion is not a concern, bottles of medications should peated twisting.


Guidelines: • Provide connectivity for assistive devices,
(7a) Provide a clear line of sight to important el- if used, such as headphones or infrared de-
ements for any seated or standing user.
(7b) Make reach to all components comfortable for (2b) Accommodate left- or right-handed access
any seated or standing user. and use.
(7c) Accommodate variations in hand and grip
• Make the device symmetrical, reversible,
size. or rearrangeable to suit both left- and
(7d) Provide adequate space for the use of assis- right-handed users.
tive devices or personal assistance.
(2c) Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision.
Example: toilet rooms. Wall-mounted compo-
nents (e.g., toilet paper, trash can, belongings • Make controls easy to grip and to move,
shelf) should be visible, easy to reach, and easy for whether they turn, slide, or press. Provide
all sizes of hands to use. The room itself should be sufficient but not excessive friction in mov-
large enough to fit a wheelchair and a personal as- ing parts to facilitate precision.
sistant, child, or companion, if desired. • Make buttons large enough with sufficient
space between buttons to facilitate accu-
Note that the Principles of Universal Design rate keying.
only address the usability of designs. As indicated • If a key or card must be inserted into the
by Batavia and Hammer's (1990) criteria for eval- device, slope or bevel the entry hole to fa-
uating assistive technologies, there are other is- cilitate its insertion.
sues of importance to consumers, such as afford- • Provide a palm rest or elbow rest below
ability and durability of products. However, the control panels.
Principles of Universal Design serve to specify
those aspects of usability that are most affected by (2d) Provide adaptability to the user's pace.
the range of human variation and that merit spe- • Allow novice users to move slowly and to
cial attention from designers. access additional help messages, as need-
The Principles of Universal Design should apply ed. Allow expert users to move quickly and
to all phases of use. A product should be easy to try skip intermediate steps, when possible.
in a store environment, set up in the home, use the
first time, use long term, maintain, repair, and dis- Some tests for this principle would be
pose of. • Can the device be used with a closed fist or open
palm, either left or right? Can it be used with a
APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES OF bilateral closed-fist grip? Can it be used with a
UNIVERSAL DESIGN pointing tool? Can the device be used with an el-
While the Principles of Universal Design are a bow, foot, or other body part? Can the device be
landmark achievement in communicating the con- used with imprecise movements/limited coordi-
cept of universal design and all of its varied as- nation, e.g., using the nondominant hand?
pects, more work must be done to make them eas- • Can the device be used from a seated or standing
ier to apply. Two additional levels of information position? Can the device be used from different
are planned that must be broken down by design heights or different angles?
discipline. • Are built-in adjustments easy to make?
Below the levels of name, definition, and guide- • Can the device be used with assistive technolo-
line come strategies and tests. Strategies specify gy, such as a hearing aid, a prosthesis, or a
ways that the guidelines may be achieved, and wheelchair?
tests provide empirical tools to assess whether the
guideline has been met. For example, for Principle ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY VS.
Two: Flexibility in Use , some strategies for prod- UNIVERSAL DESIGN
ucts to meet the guidelines would be The goal of universal design is to maximize the
normalcy of disability, but assistive technology
(2a) Provide choice in methods of use .
will always be needed. Because it will never be pos-
• Allow a choice of modes of input, such as sible to design anything that can be used equally
keyboard or speech. easily by everyone, individuals, especially those
• Provide redundant modes of output, such with the most severe disabilities, will always need
as visual and auditory. some assistance from a device or another person.


Nonetheless, as often as possible, mainstream mize the usability of the products and environ-
products should be made accessible. Ifmainstream ments they produce.
products are designed with a universal design ap- Third, industry needs guidance to market their
proach, the need for assistive technology may be products appropriately. Appropriate marketing is
reduced. At the same time, assistive devices should critical to the commercial succes s of universal de-
also be designed to be as universally usable as pos- sign, a fact well understood by the originators of
sible. If assistive technologies are designed with a the concept and the term in the early 1970s. Ad-
universal design approach, they may serve a wider vertising a product as being useful (only) for old
range of users and the need for additional devices people or those with disabilities can be the ki ss of
may be reduced. death for a company. Companies need t o learn
Universal design has other advantages, as well. marketing techniques that will appeal to a broad
Th ese include audience without stigmatizing the product, the
company, or the customer.
• reduced cost of a device due to greater economie s The primary benefit t o industry of practicing
of scale realized by ma ss production; universal design is that it will be more effective at
• greate r availability of usable design s that were serving a consumer ba se that is more diverse than
produced in quantity and marketed through a most realize. Thi s will result in gr eater consumer
variety of common channels; satisfaction and a more loyal customer ba se and
• longevity of a device that continues to serve peo- has the potential to increase the size of markets.
ple even as their abilities change; The early practitioner s of universal design, such as
• better reliability of devices that were mass pro- Honeywell (home controls such as thermostats),
duced ; Cuisinart (small appliances such as food proces-
• eas ier rep airability of common device s; sors), Whirlpool (large appliances and t elephone
• inclusion of a person with a disability in using customer as sistance), and more recently Oxo (Good
the same tools as everyone else in the famil y for Grip sv kitchen utensils ) and Fi skars (Soft ouch'P
everyday activities ; and scissors and shears), have gained a considerable
• lack of stigma associated with devices that are amount of free publicity about their efforts and a
used by everyone. great deal of business from this exposure and the
Universal design may, in fact, reduce the quality of the design s them selve s. Their successes
amount of personal as sistance and the number of must be publicized more widely to ent ice addition-
special devices needed. When that cannot be done, al companies to follow su it.
it should make connection to standard assistive de- Two current trends increa sin g momentum to-
vices as easy as possible. ward wider universal design adoption are the glob-
alization of the marketplace and the aging of the
THE FUTURE OF UNIVERSAL DESIGN world's population. As the globe shrinks and com-
petition for markets intensifies, design that accom-
Th e next frontier for universal design is indus- modates diversity in language skills and life ex-
try. We understand universal design in the re- periences will succeed. Also, as the world 's post-
search and academic communities, but in order to World War II baby boom generation ages, design
mak e a difference in individuals' qualities of life, that reflects a belief that users are more important
we must convince industry to change the way it op- than art will thrive. The se issues will only become
erates and to accept and adopt the concept of uni- more important in the coming decades.
versal design. What will attract industry? Unle ss In the meantime, rehabilitation profession al s
un iversal design will give companies a competitive can serve their clients most effectively by first re-
adva ntage, they cannot justify its practice. searching what solut ions alread y exist . Often , the
Th e first thing companies need is st atisti cal jus- assistive device needed by a client is available
tificat ion for practicing universal design. The y through a mainstream catalog or even at a local
need demographic information about the preva- store. Second , service providers should recomm end
lence of disability and the aging of the world 's pop- products that are as universally usable as possibl e
ulation and details about the legal requirements for the reasons mentioned above: easier availabil-
for accommodating people with disabilities. ity , lower cost, better reliability, ea sier repairabil -
Th e second thing industry needs is a set of uni- ity , less stigma, and greater utility for all member s
versal design performance measures against of the family. Third, rehabilitation engineers
which to judge their designs for use by a diverse should custom design devices only wh en necessary
cons umer ba se. These would assist them to maxi- and even then should design not only for the cur-


rent needs of the client but for his or her future sa l design (Vers ion 2.0). Raleigh: North Carolina St ate Uni-
need s and the needs of other family members as versity.
Electronics Industries Association and Electr onic Industries
well. Foundation. (1996). Resource g uide for accessible design of
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