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The Principles of Universal Design

Learn more about the seven principles of universal design with examples from around the world in a photo gallery.

Though coming from different histories and directions, the purpose of universal design and assistive technology is essentially the same: to reduce the physical and attitudinal barriers between people with and without disabilities.

The Principles of Universal Design

PRINCIPLE ONE:
Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

Guidelines:

  • Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.
  • Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.
  • Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.
  • Make the design appealing to all users.

PRINCIPLE TWO:
Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Guidelines:

  • Provide choice in methods of use.
  • Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use.
  • Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision.
  • Provide adaptability to the user's pace.

PRINCIPLE THREE:
Simple and Intuitive Use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

Guidelines:

  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
  • Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.
  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.
  • Arrange information consistent with its importance.
  • Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.

PRINCIPLE FOUR:
Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.

Guidelines:

  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
  • Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
  • Maximize "legibility" of essential information.
  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.

PRINCIPLE FIVE:
Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Guidelines:

  • Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
  • Provide warnings of hazards and errors.
  • Provide fail-safe features.
  • Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

PRINCIPLE SIX:
Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

Guidelines:

  • Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
  • Use reasonable operating forces.
  • Minimize repetitive actions.
  • Minimize sustained physical effort.

PRINCIPLE SEVEN:
Size and Space for Approach and Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Guidelines:

  • Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
  • Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
  • Accommodate variations in hand- and grip-size.
  • Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.
 

Next: Photo Gallery

The Principles of Universal Design © 1997 NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.





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I am the parent of a young woman who struggles daily to overcome accessibility issues as well as rude behaviors of uneducated people. I was so moved by the people who were profiled in Freedom Machines. I only wish the prime time networks would air the show—over and over—in place of some of the ridiculous 'real life' shows that are shown. ”

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