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Universal Design

Our last article explored the principles that employers, landlords, and service providers must follow when implementing accommodations. Among these principles are integration and full participation. In this article, we discuss how service providers can accomplish these goals of accommodation using universal design.

Universal Design

Universal design means creating products, services, and places that a wide variety of people can use. When something is universally designed, creators are thinking about people’s accessibility needs during the design process. Thinking about accessibility at the design stage often saves time and money later, because retrofits are more costly and time-consuming than accessibility from the start.

If employers, landlords, and other service providers use universal design when creating or updating their structures and services, they may need to make fewer changes later.

For instance, one example of universal design is website accessibility. When web developers create websites accessible with assistive technologies, without barriers, people with a variety of abilities can use them. For example, some web elements that developers can design universally are:

Moreover, universal design also benefits people without disabilities. For instance, speech recognition software makes computers accessible for people with mobility disabilities. In addition, people who are multi-tasking also find it useful. Furthermore, when websites are designed for use with voice or keyboard commands, they also become easier for search engines to find. As a result, people who create websites accessibly also make it more likely that visitors will notice and browse them.

Similarly, people with physical disabilities often need stair-free access, wide paths, and automatic doors. These features are often useful to:

  • Families with small children
  • Parents with strollers
  • Shoppers with bags or carts
  • Travellers with luggage

When organizations design their buildings and services with accessible features, they can employ, house, and serve many more people. In addition, they can offer services that allow everyone to participate fully in integrated and dignified ways.