Universal Design is designing spaces and products so they can be used by everyone. It satisfies the needs of the disabled, able-bodied, the young and old while avoiding segregating any particular group of people.
Understanding how to design safe and accessible spaces is large part of the NCIDQ Exam. Here’s what you need to know.
Universal Design vs. Accessible Design
Universal Design evolved from accessible design, which just focuses on the needs of people with disabilities. However, Universal Design goes one step further to include a wide spectrum of abilities.
There are 7 principles that the Center for Excellence in Universal Design has suggested. While each principle has detailed tenets, here’s a brief summary:
- Equitable use – the design is useful and sellable to people with diverse abilities
- Flexibility in use – the design benefits a wide range of preferences and abilities
- Simple and intuitive use – use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or concentration level
- Perceptible information – the design is easily communicated to the user
- Tolerance for error – the design reduces hazards and the consequences if an accident occurs
- Low physical effort – the design can be used efficiently and comfortably with minimum fatigue
- Appropriate size and space – there is enough size/space provided for approach, reach, and function, regardless of body size, posture, or mobility
There is overlap between Universal Design and accessible design, which references the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation. ADA includes the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design which outlines the minimum requirement to stop discrimination towards people with disabilities.
However, Universal Design still goes further in seeking best practices in design, which is ever evolving and improving!
NCIDQ Building Codes
No matter which exam you are taking, be sure to study the NCIDQ Building Codes. For IDFX, you’ll need to understand the basics of accessibility codes, For IDPX, you’ll need to be able to apply these codes in practice.
Aging in PlaceAging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice for as long as they are able, as they age. It focuses on maintaining and/or improving the quality of life with independence.
Some Aging in Place design considerations include:
- Level entry into home
- Single floor plan home
- Open plan design
- Easy to clean finishes
- Bathroom designs with threshold-free showers and lavatories with knee spaces
- Kitchen designs with easy-to-reach storage instead of wall cabinetry
- Placing appliances at a comfortable height
- Appropriate lighting types and levels
- Flooring with single or subtle color and patterning; avoid complex patterns
- Seating upholstery and toilet finishes to contrast with flooring for better visual perception
- Sink to visually contrast with countertop / vanity
- Color scheme(s) to complement elderly vision. Elderly people can’t distinguish blues and greens as easily as younger folks. As we age, the lens of our eyes tends to yellow, so older people view colors with a yellow tint.
Signage and Wayfinding
The image shown at the top of this post is a perfect example of easily identifiable signage, otherwise known as wayfinding.
Signage for the visually impaired must be present in general circulation information, emergency directions, and inside elevators.
Signage requirements: Directional and informational signs
- Letters between 5/8 and 3 inches high
- Upper or lower case lettering
- Sign to have high contrast symbols and a non-glare finish
Signs with the international symbol for accessibility (a.k.a. the wheelchair symbol) are required on signs for parking spaces, passenger loading zones, accessible entrances and restroom facilities (if they all aren’t accessible). Understand these basics of signage, and be particularly aware of how signage projects into a room or drops from the ceiling. Make sure you have the appropriate clearances per the NCIDQ Building Codes.
Signage requirements: Permanent rooms
- Raised letters between 5/8 and 2 inches high
- Upper case letters in a simple font (sans-serif or simple serif)
- Braille must be included and must be Grade 2
- High contrast symbols and a non-glare finish
- Images must be at least 6 inches high, with the related text below the image
- Mounting location is on the latch side of the door, with an 18 x 18-inch clear floor space at the sign center (outside of the arc of the door swing). If there is no wall on the latch side, or for double doors, the mounting location is on the right side of the right door
- Mounting height is 60 inches to the center line of the sign