The Goals and Benefits of Universal Design

Stick figures of a variety of individuals, including people using wheelchairs and with service animals.

Universal design means planning to build physical, learning and work environments so that they are usable by a wide range of people, regardless of age, size or disability status.  While universal design promotes access for individuals with disabilities, it also benefits others.

Why Consider Universal Design?

UB is legally required to ensure that our work and learning environments are accessible for individuals with disabilities, and we understand that accessibility is essential to an inclusive environment. Creating accessible physical spaces, electronic content and learning environments requires additional thought and planning at the beginning stages. It is much easier, however, to plan for accessibility at the outset than to attempt to retrofit an inaccessible space, program or course to make it accessible. Universal design benefits a wide range of people with varying learning styles, preferences and abilities.

Universal Design in Action

Universal design improves access and outcomes for everyone in a variety of situations. Some examples include:

  • Curb cuts and power-assisted doors are necessary for access for people with mobility impairments. They also benefit a worker transporting items with a cart, a parent pushing a small child in a stroller, someone who is using a wheeled briefcase, and a person who is carrying a bulky item and is trying to open an exterior door.
  • Captions are necessary for individuals with hearing impairments in order to access information presented by audio. They also benefit someone who wants to watch a video in a library or a quiet office environment without disturbing others. English language learners may also have an increased comprehension of the information where captions are provided.
  • A website that is designed with headings, well-organized content and keyboard navigation will benefit individuals using screen readers and those with learning disabilities. It will also be easier to follow and more visually-appealing for everyone.