Universal Design - What is it and how can you implement it?

  • Definition 

    Briefly, universal design is the concept that an environment is designed and built so it can be accessed, understood, interacted and used by anyone regardless of age, disability or any other factors that may come in play.  


    This 'environment' can be many different situations, for example, the design of buildings or a lab, teaching, science communication, social media content, graphics and any other situation or content you can think of. The main point of it is that accessibility is built into the design, not an afterthought. 


    However, universal design does not cover every single scenario that could arise or account for every disability. There will always be a need for personal accommodations. The point of universal design is to maximise accessibility and minimise exclusion. 


    Principles of Universal Design

    There are 7 principles of universal design:

    1. Equitable use - if it needs to be altered for use by some, then the alteration is identical or equivalent. All safety and security are identical to the original design. 
    2. Flexible use - it can be adapted to suit needs (e.g.) a product can be used by both left and right-handed people. 
    3. Simple - no unnecessary complications, or language usage and consistent design.
    4. Perceptible design - information is given in multiple ways and has maximum readability.
    5. Tolerance for error - minimise hazards and provide warnings in multiple ways for hazards that cannot be eliminated. 
    6. Low effort - design is comfortable and efficient. No continuous stress. 
    7. Appropriate size and space for use. 

    These principles can mean different things in different situations, you can adapt it to your situation. 


    Benefits of Universal Design

    Who does universal design benefit? In a nutshell, everyone! Universal design acknowledges that we have a diverse population/audience and discourages prejudices. It allows people of all abilities and education levels to engage with your work and sets minimum accessibility standards. In certain situations, such as teaching, it can help those who don't have certain accommodations to access your content! 

    The future is accessible, but only when we all commit to accessibility.

    If you'd like to learn more about universal design and how you can implement it into your work, then join us for the Scientistt Virtual Networking session this Friday (11th of September) at 4 pm BST! [link to the event] https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/disabled-in-stem-universal-design-tickets-119788411363