Universal design is the process of creating products/environments such that they can be accessed and used by people with a range of abilities. If we think of ability as a continuum, where no two people have exactly the same ability and ability varies depending on the context, then universal design asks us to consider the varied abilities of users in order to create a simple and intuitive design for all. This differs from other design approaches where we might instead consider an average user and design to meet their needs.
There are seven principles to universal design:
- Equitable Use
- Flexibility in Use
- Simple and Intuitive Use
- Perceptible Information
- Tolerance for Error
- Low Physical Effort
- Size and Space for Approach and Use
Universal design generally results in a product/environment that benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. In the physical environment, universal design led to curb cuts, which benefit wheelchair users as well as young parents pushing strollers. And in the digital environment, universal design leads to captions that benefit people with hearing loss as well as the busy student who has forgotten their headphones but needs to review a video for class.
While accessibility standards will likely guide our work, ultimately, we are seeking to make EIT and content that is easily accessed and used by all people.