Universal Design is designing spaces and products so everyone can use them. It satisfies the needs of the disabled, able-bodied, the young, and the old while avoiding segregating any particular group of people.
Understanding how to design safe and accessible spaces is a 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 focuses on the needs of people with disabilities. However, Universal Design goes one step further to include a broad spectrum of abilities.
There are seven principles that the Center for Excellence in Universal Design has suggested. While each principle has detailed tenets, here's a 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 – 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 age, body size, posture, or mobility
There is an overlap between universal design and accessible design, which references the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation. ADA is a standard that includes the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which outlines the minimum requirement to prevent discrimination towards people with disabilities.
However, universal design still seeks inclusivity using best practices in design, which is ever-evolving and improving.
Be sure to study the 2009 ICC A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities. For IDFX, you'll need to understand the basics of accessibility codes. For PRAC, you'll need to be able to apply these codes in practice.
Aging in Place
Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice for as long as they can as they age. It focuses on maintaining and improving the quality of life with independence. Some aging in place design considerations include:
- Level entry into the 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 have visual contrast with countertop and vanity
- Color scheme(s) to complement elderly vision. Older people can't always distinguish between specific colors as when they were younger. Also, as we age, the lens of our eyes tends to yellow. Older people may view colors with a yellow tint.
Signage and Wayfinding
Easily identifiable signage, otherwise known as wayfinding, should be understandable by anyone, no matter their age or language.
Signage for the visually impaired must be present in general circulation information, emergency directions, and inside elevators.
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 is installed or located within a space, to be compliant with A117.1.