Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
Universal Design is a worldwide movement that is based on the idea that all environments and products should be usable by all people, regardless of their ages, sizes, or abilities. Because this movement applies to everyone, the concept of Universal Design is known around the world as “design for all,” “inclusive design,” and “life-span design.”
Accessible environments are those which can be used by all people, in a way that is independent, equitable and dignified . An important component of Universal Design is the maintenance of aesthetics. In other words, to create something that is still “visually pleasing” to others despite being accessible to everyone. Function does NOT have to sacrifice beauty.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of the Australian population aged 65 and over will more than double between 1975 and 2030, from 8.7 to 21.1 per cent of the population. The proportion aged 80 and over will quadruple, from 1.5 per cent to 6 per cent.
In 1998, an estimated 3.6 million people or 19% of the Australian population were classified as having a disability. This is similar to data from other developed countries such as the United States which indicates 20.3% of the population has disabilities.
A move to view environments as enablers of independence and as a means for creating and maintaining quality of life for all is required. The quality of the design and or fabrication of the product becomes the focus instead of the users and their level of ability. Developing an inclusive approach that appeals to ‘us' not just ‘them', requires consumers, suppliers and people within the building and manufacturing industry to work together.