Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability (National Disability Authority, 2020). This allows for any building or environment to be designed to meet all of the needs for people who wishes to use it, which is inclusive and beneficial for everyone. Universal Design should incorporate a two-level approach:
- User-Aware Design: pushing the boundaries of ‘mainstream’ products, services and evironments to include as many people as possible
- Customisable Design: design to minimize the difficulties of adaptation to particular users.
Besides curb cuts, there are many examples of universal design in engineering. Ruiming mentioned ramp entrances, which was the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about universal design structures. Another example is the automatic door, in which many buildings and buses contain. Automated doors accommodate high flows of pedestrian traffic and providing accessibility for people with disabilities.
This can be used as an inspiration as a learning design as learning must be inclusive, too. Universal Design Learning (UDL) is a way of thinking and learning that helps give all students an equal opportunity to succeed, just like how Universal Design engineering gives all people an equal opportunity to do the same thing. This learning design is able to target students who learn and think differently, as well as students with learning disabilities. This approach offers flexibility in the ways students access material and are able to stay engaged while showing what they know. Examples of universal learning design are closed captions, which allow hearing impaired students to see what is being said on-screen, but also people who don’t have disabilities may also want to use them. I know personally for me, I prefer watching movies with English subtitles on. UDL allows this same flexibility in the classroom.
National Disability Authority, 2020. What is Universal Design. Retrieved from: http://universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/