Designing for Accessibility and Universal Design Principles

Think Interior
6 min readApr 29, 2023

Designing for accessibility and universal design principles is important to creating inclusive and accommodating spaces for people with diverse abilities and needs.

You can learn about designing for accessibility and universal design principles through an interior design academy. Here are some key considerations for designing with accessibility and universal design principles in mind:

Plan for Mobility

Accessibility in design begins with planning for mobility. Design spaces that are free of obstacles and easy to navigate, ensuring no barriers to movement for people with disabilities or mobility issues. It includes wider doorways, hallways, level thresholds, and accessible entrances and exits.

Planning for mobility is essential to designing for accessibility and universal design principles. By creating spaces free of obstacles and easy to navigate, designers can ensure that people with disabilities or mobility issues can move around comfortably and safely. Here are some key considerations for planning for mobility in design:

Wider Doorways and Hallways

Designing spaces with wider doorways and hallways can significantly affect accessibility. Standard doorways are usually around 32 inches wide, but designing at least 36 inches wide can accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

Level Thresholds

Level thresholds are essential for wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids. Designing spaces with level thresholds between rooms, entrances, and exits can provide safe and easy transitions between spaces.

Accessible Entrances and Exits

Designing accessible entrances and exits is critical for people with disabilities. It includes installing ramps or lifts to provide an alternative to stairs, ensuring that doorways are wide enough for mobility aids, and installing automatic door openers for ease of access.

Consider Ergonomics

Designing for accessibility also involves considering ergonomics, the science of designing products or environments to be comfortable, efficient, and safe. It means designing comfortable and functional spaces for people of different sizes and abilities, with features such as adjustable-height counters and workstations.

Consideration of ergonomics is an essential aspect of designing for accessibility and universal design principles. Ergonomics is the science of designing products or environments to be comfortable, efficient, and safe. By designing comfortable and functional spaces for people of different sizes and abilities, designers can ensure everyone can use and enjoy the space. Here are some key considerations for designing with ergonomics in mind:

Adjustable-Height Features

Adjustable-height features, such as counters, desks, and tables, allow people of different heights and abilities to work comfortably. These features can be adjusted to accommodate people who use wheelchairs or mobility aids and those who prefer to sit or stand while working.

Seating

Comfortable seating is an essential aspect of ergonomics. Choose adjustable chairs with good lumbar support to prevent back pain and other discomforts. Additionally, ensure that seating is easy to access and can be moved or rearranged.

Lighting

Lighting is a critical consideration for ergonomics. Poor lighting can cause eye strain, headaches, and other discomforts. Ensure that spaces have adequate adjustable lighting, allowing people to control the lighting level and avoid glare or shadows.

Use Universal Design Principles

Universal design principles ensure that spaces are accessible and user-friendly for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Universal design principles focus on creating spaces that are flexible, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing. Examples of universal design principles include lever-style door handles, adjustable lighting, and non-slip flooring.

Using universal design principles is an essential aspect of designing for accessibility. Universal design aims to create spaces that are accessible, functional, and easy to use for people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds. Here are some key universal design principles to consider when designing for accessibility:

Flexibility in Use

Design spaces and features that can be used in multiple ways to accommodate people with different abilities and preferences. For example, a kitchen countertop can be designed to be adjustable in height to accommodate someone in a wheelchair or a door handle can be designed to be operated with one hand.

Simple and Intuitive

Design spaces that are easy to navigate and intuitively without requiring specialized knowledge or skills. Consider using visual cues and clear signage to guide people through the space.

Equitable Use

Design spaces usable by people of all abilities, including those with disabilities. It includes providing accessible entrances, exits, and restrooms and ensuring all features are designed with accessibility.

Perceptible Information

Ensure that important information is conveyed in multiple ways, such as through audio, visual, and tactile cues, to ensure that people of all abilities can access the information.

Incorporate Assistive Technology

Assistive technology refers to any technology, device, or software that can help people with disabilities or other challenges to perform tasks that may otherwise be difficult or impossible. Design spaces incorporating assistive technology, such as voice-activated systems or touch-screen interfaces, to ensure everyone can use and enjoy the space.

Incorporating assistive technology is a key aspect of designing for accessibility. Assistive technology refers to devices, software, and equipment that help people with disabilities perform tasks and activities that might otherwise be challenging or impossible. Here are some ways to incorporate assistive technology into your design:

Communication Devices

Incorporate communication devices, such as text-to-speech or speech-to-text software, into your design to help people with speech and language disabilities communicate effectively.

Mobility Aids

Consider incorporating mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or walkers, into your design. Ensure that doorways, hallways, and other spaces are wide enough to accommodate these devices and that ramps or lifts are available where necessary.

Hearing Aids

Ensure that the space is designed with acoustics in mind, such as by minimizing background noise and using sound-absorbing materials. Additionally, consider incorporating hearing aids, such as induction loops, into your design to help people with hearing impairments.

Braille and Tactile Signage

Incorporate braille and tactile signage into your design to help people with visual impairments navigate the space. Ensure that the signage is placed at an appropriate height and is easy to read.

Prioritize Safety

Safety is a crucial consideration in designing for accessibility. Design spaces that prioritize safety using non-toxic materials, slip-resistant flooring, handrails, or grab bars in appropriate locations. Additionally, ensure that emergency exits are easily accessible and that clear evacuation plans are in place.

When designing for accessibility, it’s important to prioritize safety. It includes considering potential hazards and ensuring that the space is safe for people of all abilities. Here are some ways to prioritize safety in your design:

Accessibility Features

Ensure that all accessibility features, such as ramps, handrails, and grab bars, are securely installed and meet safety standards. Consider using slip-resistant materials in areas where slip and fall accidents may occur, such as in bathrooms or near entrances.

Lighting

Ensure the space is well-lit to prevent accidents and improve visibility. It includes ensuring that lighting is even throughout the space and that no areas are overly bright or dimly lit.

Clear Pathways

Ensure that pathways throughout the space are clear and free of obstacles. It includes ensuring enough space for people using mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or walkers, to maneuver comfortably.

Emergency Preparedness

Ensure that emergency procedures are in place and that people of all abilities can evacuate the space safely. It includes providing accessible emergency exits, clear signage, and accessible communication methods.

Accessible Equipment

Ensure that any equipment in the space, such as elevators or lifts, is properly maintained and meets safety standards. Additionally, ensure that people of all abilities can use the equipment safely.

By prioritizing safety in your design, you can create a space that is accessible, functional, and safe for people of all abilities. It promotes inclusion and accessibility and ensures everyone can use and enjoy the space without fear of injury or harm.

Conclusion

Overall, designing for accessibility and universal design principles means creating welcoming, accommodating, and safe spaces for everyone. By planning for mobility, considering ergonomics, using universal design principles, incorporating assistive technology, and prioritizing safety, designers can create spaces that meet the needs of diverse populations and promote inclusion and accessibility for all.

When choosing home interior design schools online or program, it’s important to look for one emphasizing accessibility and universal design.

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