Universal design is a concept whose time has come.
Put simply, following principles of universal design results in manufactured objects that can be used by everyone, have a range of applications and are functional in a variety of situations, are easy to manipulate, user-friendly, not damaged or broken by ham-fisted handling, don’t require strength to operate, and are installed so they can be reached and approached with ease.
Contrast these principles with your last piece of manufactured junk that fell to pieces, ceased to work, or caused you physical or psychic injury.
Consider a piece of flat pack furniture that defied your best efforts to assemble so that it failed to stand up by itself, or had bits left over when assembly was complete. Reflect on a product that was conceived by a stylist sharing a dark corner with a cost accountant, whilst the engineer was kept at arm’s length. Recall a building that was inaccessible to anyone who was confined to a wheelchair or blind.
For the ever-increasing proportion of the Australian population with disabilities, following these universal design principles can make the difference between living independently and having to rely on others for assistance with daily living. Quality of life can be defined as the freedom to manage your living environment without assistance.
Using principles of universal design does not detract from the aesthetics or construction costs of an item if it is made on an assembly line. Providing that the item is designed from the beginning with universal use in mind, extra costs are minimal or non-existent. Adapting objects or buildings after the design phase is what costs – just ask any agency that has had to make a building wheelchair accessible after it has been constructed.
So it’s about time that these principles were embedded into federal legislation. It’s encouraging therefore to read about the national new uniform building code to be introduced this year.
I wonder why it took so long?