Universal design is the concept or approach to be more precise, of making any design accessible and usable by as many people as possible, irrespective of the age, situation and ability. It is a totally a new paradigm shift from the normal design process. According to the “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990” (http://www. ada. gov/cguide. htm, ADA Title II) even people with disability have equal rights to work, study and use or access any product or services as a normal person and that is where the concept of universal design comes into picture.
While designing any product, designers need to keep in mind the following universal design principles to make it more usable and accessible. 1. Equitable Use 2. Flexibility in Use 3. Simple and Intuitive Use 4. Perceptible Information 5. Tolerance for Error 6. Low Physical Effort 7. Size and Space for Approach and Use Equitable Use: irrespective of age, ability or situation, a person should be able to effectively use a car, bus, elevator, mobile, computer, website, Interface and anything or everything what a normal person can use.
Flexibility in Use: design should be flexible enough to accommodate personal preferences. Example can be adjustable and customizable designs. Ease or flexibility of use makes design more usable by everyone Simple and Intuitive Use: designers should understand one thing before designing an interface, that its not mandatory that all users will have equal level of technology knowledge, so we should accommodate this option, thus making interface simple and easy to use for a novice to expert. Systematic display system, visual display system helps in making any design intuitive.
Proper use of colors and color combinations also plays important role while making an intuitive design. Perceptible Information: design should be able to communicate necessary information to the user effectively irrespective of the user’s ability and disability. For example a blind user, who is using an elevator, may not be able to see which floor he is in, so alternative solution of voice based support should be made available. Similarly a blind user may not be able to see directions in subways or stations, so alternative information system should be made available for such users.
Tolerance for Error: users tend to make mistake while using any interface or design or technology till they get acquainted to the system. Universal design means design should accommodate tolerance towards these common errors by helping users giving them alerts, voice alerts or error messages along with the solutions or support based system to help them overcoming from such problems in future. Low Physical Effort: designers should understand one more thing that not necessarily all users will be power users, hence design should be simple enough to reduce physical effort.
For example if adjustable interface or design needs users to manually adjust settings, it makes tedious for the users to use them and hence reducing the effectiveness, this can be avoided by using automated systems. Size and Space for Approach and Use: this principle is important when designing car, bus, elevators, lifts, security system kind of interface or an interior design. These designs should provide ample space and flexibility for disabled users with wheelchairs to use them effectively and easily.
Let’s dive more into the universal design concept, by creating some user personas and relating them with the above mentioned principles. Persona 1: Name: Zara Zacharias Age: 18 years Profession: Student Zara is an 18 years old girl. She stays with her parents. Zara is very fond of using electronic gadgets. She lost both her legs in a car accident 2 years ago. She is totally dependant on wheelchair for all her daily work. Zara is doing her bachelors in arts from a regular college and needs to commute 10 miles daily.
Due to her disability she cannot board bus or car easily, but at the same time, she wants to be self dependant rather than depending on others to help her out. She needs a transportation method which makes it easy for her to commute easily with less effort. An automobile engineer/designer needs to keep in mind people like Zara before designing a transportation interface. Equitable use makes sense when people like Zara are able to use it effectively and easily, without any hassle and confusion. How can a car or bus be universally designed?