Universal Design – What does that mean?

We suggest that there are seven key elements to Universal Design.

  • A design that is equitable
  • A design that is flexible enough to accommodate our differences
  • A design that is simple and intuitive
  • A design that is perceptible and informative
  • A design that minimises errors
  • A designed product that requires low physical effort
  • A design providing appropriate size and space.


Universal designs express the same meaning regardless of a person’s ability, for instance, the main pedestrian entrance to a building, means, the main entrance to a building, regardless of a person’s ability.


A universal design accommodates the widest group of individual’s preferences and abilities, and it does this by providing a range choices, rather than simply applying the statistical averages. For example, left and right handed automated teller machines.


A universal design is complicated design by reason of its inherently designed simplicity. It is a design that is purposefully easy to apprehend regardless of the end user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or concentration levels. Universal signage is a reasonable example of simplicity.


Universal design communicates the necessary information available to the user, regardless of the user’s abilities, for instance, TGSI’s can be used to indicate a hazard, or entry doors can be activated by voice or movement, with appropriately intuitive configurations inherent in the design informing the user of those capabilities.

Low susceptibility to Error

Universal designs seek to reduce the potential for error by providing fail safe alternatives, for instance a bell button on a lift or button operated automated doors.


A universal design can be used effectively and comfortably while minimising fatigue, for instance, providing rest spots on stairways, access ways and ramps, as well as handrails for assistance.


Universal designs provide size and space proportions to each user regardless of their body size, posture or mobility. Widened doorways being a simple instance of this technique.

Source: Sydney Access Consultants

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