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Universal Design

By HHI Staff

Universal design is a relatively new paradigm that emerged from "barrier-free" or "accessible design" and "assistive technology." Barrier-free design and assistive technology provide a level of accessibility for people with disabilities but they also often result in separate and stigmatizing solutions, for example, a ramp that leads to a different entry to a building than a main stairway. Universal design strives to be a broad-spectrum solution that helps everyone, not just people with disabilities. Moreover, it recognizes the importance of how things look. For example, while built-up handles are a way to make utensils more usable for people with gripping limitations, some companies introduced larger, easy-to-grip and attractive handles as a feature of mass produced utensils. They appeal to a wide range of consumers.

 

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As life expectancy rises and modern medicine has increased the survival rate of those with significant injuries, illnesses and birth defects, there is a growing interest in universal design. There are many industries in which universal design is having strong market penetration but there are many others in which it has not yet been adopted to any great extent.

Universal design is a part of everyday living and is all around us. The "undo" command in most software products is a good example. Color-contrast dishware with steep sides that assist those with visual problems as well as those with dexterity problems are another. Additional examples include cabinets with pull-out shelves, kitchen counters at several heights to accommodate different tasks and postures, and low-floor buses equipped with ramps rather than lifts.
 

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Universal Design:  Created on April 5th, 2009.  Last Modified on August 17th, 2009

 

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