Why Universal Design is Not Just ‘Access’


The term is largely attributed to the late Ronald L. Mace, former program director of The Centre for Universal Design and is said to have been coined as early as the 1980s. Even so, at least locally in Australia, there seems to be an increasing focus on UD with several organisations attributing increasing value in it, at least principally. This has also seen substantial variation in the way these organisations interpret UD and of course ultimately the decisions they make with a view to its application.

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.