In typical buildings, accommodations for the visually or hearing impaired tend to be small and scattered: braille on signs and beside elevator buttons; flashing lights on fire alarms; guardrails abutting stairs or ramps. Since the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) established design requirements in 1990, these little touches have become commonplace, markers of the effort to universalize spaces that weren’t built to be universal.
Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.