What is Universal Design?

uni·​ver·​sal [adjective] including or covering all or whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception.

The foundation of Universal Design and the 7 Principles were established by the NC State University, Center for Universal Design. The concept was to guide designs in developing environments, products, and communications to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need or adaption or specialized design.

The framework was expanded upon by The Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (IDeA), the leading center for research and development in Universal Design in North America, to include social participation and health. They formulated Goals of Universal Design to create more sustainable, durable, and valuable projects to minimize the economic burden of an aging society.

The concepts of Universal Designs are human-focused, evidence based for design practice in creating inclusive environments and experts acknowledge the importance of collaboration between multi-professionals on developing initiatives and projects. 

Principles of Universal Design

“A design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” (Ron Mace, 1998, American Architect and product designer, founder of The Center for 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

Goals of Universal Design

“A design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation” (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012).

Body Fit





Social Integration


Cultural Appropriateness