Design team working in the factory

What is Universal, Accessible, and Usable Design?

Universal, accessible, and usable design are all concepts that promote environments fit for everyone, including people with disabilities. According to Do-It, “These concepts apply to design of the built environment, customer services, and the other products and environments, including information technologies such as hardware, software, multimedia, distance learning courses, websites, curriculum, and instruction.” Despite these concepts focusing on the same goal, each idea is different and plays a crucial role in creating a more accessible world.

Universal Design

Universal design is described as the design of products and environments to be used to the greatest extent possible by all people without needing special adaptations or designs. Universal design also focuses on parents with baby strollers, delivery workers, and much more. According to Do-It, this design concept keeps in mind many human characteristics, including age, gender, stature, race/ethnicity, culture, native language, and learning preferences.

Universal design not only encompasses accessible buildings and sidewalks, but it also includes usable information technology products. When technology products are universally designed, they are accessible to people with disabilities and other unique characteristics. The designs are made to eliminate or minimize the need for accessible technologies while still being compatible with common assistive hardware and software devices.

Accessible Design

Accessible design considers the needs of people with various disabilities explicitly during the design process. The design concept mainly focuses on creating products, services, and facilities that people with disabilities can independently use. As stated in Do-It, accessibility as a design concept has come a long way throughout history. Public awareness about accessibility increased over the years, creating legislation, like the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), that mandates public facilities and services to be fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Similar to universal design, accessible design focuses on attainable software, hardware, websites, videos, and other information technologies for people with disabilities. Legislation, like the amendment to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, mandates that all U.S. federal agencies, educational institutions, and other entities develop accessibility standards for information technology products. Since the passing of the ADA, creating accessible technology for people with disabilities allowed many organizations to meet the required ADA obligations and standards.

Usable Design

Usable design focuses on creating products that are easy and efficient to operate. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), “Usability is the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which a specified set of users can achieve a specified set of tasks in a particular environment.” Usability engineers focus on testing how easily users can learn to operate a product and if they remember how to do so when they return to using it at a later time.

Unlike universal and accessible design, usable design doesn’t always consider people with disabilities. Because of this, many products that perform well in usability tests are not accessible to people with design. However, due to the push for more accessible environments and legislation, many usability professionals are starting to keep people with disabilities in mind when creating usable products.

Universal, accessible, and usable designs all share the same goal, to create product features and environments that are easily accessible, discoverable, and operable by users. Suppose all product designers apply these three principles and focus on the accessibility of people with disabilities. In that case, the world will become a more inclusive place despite differences.

At StrongGo, we believe in developing a more accessible environment to ensure equal opportunities for the disabled community, and we do this by engineering and designing detectable warning dome tiles. Learn more by emailing or exploring the rest of our website!


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