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Universal Design

DOT Content Team
June 23, 2020
2 min read

Universal design is the compilation of an environment so that it can be used, studied, and made use to the greatest height possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.  An environment (or any building or product) should be designed to satisfy the needs of people who wish to use it.  If the needed environment is accessible, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone gets benefited. Some of the famous universal design companies are Pentagram, Landor, Wolff Olins, Meta Design, Happy Log, etc.

The Disability Act in 2005 defines Universal Design as:

1. It is the design and composition of an environment so that it may be used, understood and used,

  • To the highest possible extent
  • In the most independent and natural way possible
  • In the widest possible range of situations

2. It is in relation to the electronic system, any electronics-based process of creating products, services or systems may be used by any person.

Universal Design should incorporate a two-level approach.

  • User-Aware Design: pushing the boundaries of ‘mainstream’ products, services, and environments to include as many people as possible.
  • Customizable Design: design to minimize the difficulties of adaptation to particular users.

Even if you’re not used to the term universal design, you might have mostly come across so many examples of it in your daily life. Automatic doors and accessibility features on smartphones are all examples of universal design.

Three Main Principles of universal design,

Representation: recommends offering information in more than one format.  For example, textbooks are primarily visual.  But providing text, audio, video and hands-on learning gives every student a chance to access the material in whichever way is best suited to their learning ability.

Action and expression suggest giving students more than one way to interact with the material and to show what they’ve learned.  For example, students might get to have a choice between taking a paper and pencil test, giving a presentation, or doing some projects.

Engagement encourages lecturers to look for multiple ways to motivate students. Giving freedom to the students to make choices and giving them assignments that feel relevant to their lives can be stated as some examples of how teachers can sustain students’ interest.  Other common strategies include making skill-building feel like a game and creating opportunities for students to get up and move around the classroom.

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