Environments for All through Universal Design

Two people walk down a long switch-back ramp underground.


People with disabilities need to be able to use the same buildings, sidewalks, public transportation vehicles, services, programs, tools, and appliances as everyone else. How do we achieve this goal? 

Strong laws that incorporate clear accessibility standards are important, such as those described on the ADA Inclusion Standards page hereUniversal design is another powerful concept for making society more inclusive of people with disabilities. Inclusive design is another term for a similar concept.

What is Universal Design?

People who are new to disability access sometimes mistakenly believe that accessibility features are unattractive, expensive and inconvenient. People who believe in universal design say this is wrong.

Universal design means that environments, tools, and other things can be designed to be attractive, affordable, and usable by all people. Design can be simple and easy to understand, and flexible enough to be used by people with a wide range of preferences and abilities. Universal design minimizes hazard and error and makes things easy and comfortable to use for people with all body sizes and abilities. Inclusive design often benefits everyone, including people with and without disabilities. For example, a ramp or curb-cut is useful for a parent with a stroller, an elderly person with a walker, or a person using a wheelchair.