top of page

what is UD?

UD product case studies.

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for specialized design.

Watch the video as Richard Duncan discusses the importance of 'Design and Social Equity' for students at Tulane School of Architecture.

Download product case studies below.


Universal Design Institute Logo



UD history.

  • Privacy and caregiving
    An ADU can enable family members to live on the same property while having their own living spaces — or provide housing for a hired caregiver. In this way, ADUs can be an affordable and more comforting alternative to an assisted-living facility or nursing home.
  • Downsizing
    For older adult homeowners looking to downsize, an ADU can be a more appealing option than moving into an apartment or an age-restricted community.
  • Safety and independence
    A new or renovated dwelling can be designed in a way that allows comfortable and safe living for many years, with universal or accessible design. Find out more here: senior design list link
  • Saving money
    Moving to a long-term care facility such as assisted living or nursing care can cost $50,000 - $100,000 each year. Delaying that move, even for two to three years, can save a lot of money. Plus, while delaying a move to an institutional care setting, older adults are able to remain in an actual home!
  • Rental income
    Where allowed, an ADU can provide rental income to homeowners who rent out their ADU or move into their ADU and rent out their primary dwelling. This rental income can help homeowners cover mortgage payments, increased property taxes, or simply make ends meet. This can be especially useful for older people on fixed incomes.

Thanks to your partnership we successfully reached hundreds of older Delawareans with important information on features to look for when buying or building a new home and gadgets and tools to help make life easier in their existing home as they age.




equitable use.

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.


  • 1a. Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.

  • 1b. Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.

  • 1c. Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.

  • 1d. Make the design appealing to all users.



Powered doors with sensors is convenient for all shoppers, especially if hands are full.

UD principles.

The authors, a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, collaborated to establish the following Principles of Universal Design to guide a wide range of design disciplines including environments, products, and communications. These seven principles may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

The Principles of Universal Design are presented here, in the following format: name of the principle, intended to be a concise and easily remembered statement of the key concept embodied in the principle; definition of the principle, a brief description of the principle's primary directive for design; and guidelines, a list of the key elements that should be present in a design which adheres to the principle. (Note: all guidelines may not be relevant to all designs.)

Download written principles below.

flexibility in use.

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.


  • 2a. Provide choice in methods of use.

  • 2b. Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use.

  • 2c. Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision.

  • 2d. Provide adaptability to the user's pace.


Large-grip scissors accommodates use with either hand and allows alternation between the two in highly repetitive tasks.


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.


  • 3a. Eliminate unnecessary complexity.

  • 3b. Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.

  • 3c. Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.

  • 3d. Arrange information consistent with its importance.

  • 3e. Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.



Public emergency stations utilize recognized emergency colors and a simple design to quickly convey function to passers-by.

perceptible information.

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


  • 4a. Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.

  • 4b. Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.

  • 4c. Maximize "legibility" of essential information.

  • 4d. Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).

  • 4e. Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.



Small bumps on a cell phone keypad tell the user where important keys are without requiring the user to look at the keys.

tolerance for error.

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.


  • 5a. Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.

  • 5b. Provide warnings of hazards and errors.

  • 5c. Provide fail safe features.

  • 5d. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.



A sequential-trip trigger on a nail gun requires the user to 1 activate the safety before 2 pulling the trigger, minimizing accidents that occur when a user accidentally hits an object or person while pulling the trigger.

low physical effort.

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.


  • 6a. Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.

  • 6b. Use reasonable operating forces.

  • 6c. Minimize repetitive actions.

  • 6d. Minimize sustained physical effort.



Door lever does not require grip strength to operate, and can even be operated by a closed fist or elbow.

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.


  • 7a. Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.

  • 7b. Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.

  • 7c. Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.

  • 7d. Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.



Wide gates at subway stations accommodate wheelchair users as well as commuters with packages or luggage.

principles in different languages.


Please note that the Principles of Universal Design address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability. Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes. These Principles offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible.

Compiled by advocates of universal design, listed in alphabetical order: Bettye Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story, and Gregg Vanderheiden

Major funding provided by: The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education

contact us.


Whether you have questions or need assistance, our team is here to help. Get in touch through any of the channels below. We’re eager to hear from you!

Got questions? Find the answers here.

bottom of page