The biggest barriers people with disabilities encounter are other people
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Importance of Universal Design

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Universal design
When designers apply universal design principles, their products and services meet the needs of potential users with a wide variety of characteristics. Designing any product or service involves the consideration of many factors, including aesthetics, engineering options, environmental issues, safety concerns, and cost. Often the design is created for the "average" user. In contrast, "universal design" is "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." Disability is just one of many characteristics that an individual might possess. By developing an accessible product or service, the need for adaptations at a later time can be minimized or eliminated.

Making a product or service accessible to people with disabilities can also benefit others. For example, sidewalk curb cuts, designed to make sidewalks and streets accessible to those using wheelchairs, are today more often used by kids on skateboards, parents with baby strollers, and delivery staff with rolling carts. If television displays in airports and restaurants were captioned, they would benefit people who cannot hear the audio because of a noisy environment as well as those who are deaf.

This indicates that our society is not one large group of people with similar characteristics, but rather, many small groups which together make up our population. It can be cost-effective to design products and services so that they are accessible to people with a broad range of characteristics. When products and services are designed to be used only by the able-bodied population with "average" characteristics, the need for special adaptations and products for people with disabilities is maximized.

Universal design, therefore:

  • takes into account the needs of all users (including both ends and the middle of any ability dimension);
  • adds flexibility to designs;

and results in product designs which:

  • allow a greater variety of people t o successfully access and use the product directly (or with any assistive device);
  • allow the product to be used in a greater variety of environments or situations;
  • are flexible enough to address the needs of both novices and power users;
  • are easier for users in general to understand and use.