According to the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, the idea of universal design was created by an architect, designed and (no surprise) wheelchair user named Ronald Mace in 1997. His Seven Principles of Universal Design are as follows:
Principle 1: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.
Now, as the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design states,
A common misconception regarding Universal Design is that it benefits only a few members of the population, such as older and disabled people. On the contrary, Universal Design aspires to benefit every member of the population by promoting accessible and usable products, services and environments.
No person operates with full capability for every activity for the duration of his or her lifetime. Accessibility or usability can be affected by, for example, a medical injury or condition (temporary, long-term or permanent), an unfamiliarity with a product or environment, a lack of understanding (e.g. In a foreign country), a physical attribute (e.g. Height, size), and so on.
A Universal Design approach aims to provide a design that takes into account these physical, behavioural, and other, factors. It appreciates that at some point, during some activity, every person experiences some form of limitation in ability. However, it should be added that a hypothetical person who does not experience a disability (in the widest definition of the word) during his or her lifetime will also benefit, at the very least from the positive user experience of simple and intuitive design.
What all of this means is that these 7 Principles of Universal Design benefit every body, across the life span, regardless of level of ability – while simultaneously creating spaces that can be incredibly accessible to those with disabilities.