Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Universal design: Why is it everybody’s concern?

Now that global travel is evident, universal design becomes a necessity. Universal design is not only meant for the built environment but applies to all things affecting persons with disabilities.

Universal design is a concept fit for the times: The idea all started as an advocacy. Prime movers that envision allowing access to products and facilities for person’s with disabilities. Considering that it could help a significant portion of the population cope. This in particular affects persons with sight problems, impaired hearing and those with mobility difficulty. What started as a genuine concern from a few caught fire and has gone global. The word ‘universal design’ was from Ronald L. Mace, an Architect. This word was used to describe the concept of designing for the disabled.

Universal design on products and the built environment: It was in 1963 that designing for free access to the disabled took bearing. The book ‘Designing for the Disabled’ started it all. This was penned by Selwyn Goldsmith. One of the most pioneering contributions was the ‘dropped curb’, now a standard feature in all built environment. Other innovations followed suit giving the disabled access to anything within the structure. They can now move from floor to floor literally. Or they can use bathrooms conveniently. The design of products with this intention followed, applicable not just to the impaired but to everybody.

Universal design is everybody’s concern: Universal design has not mushroomed overnight. Although it became typical in huge urban centers, less inclined areas has been slow to adopt. Now that global travel is a way of life, giving free access to the impaired has caught on. Not only are the principles of universal design found evident in airports and related facilities, but also in hotels, government centers, offices and several others. Caring for the disabled has turned into a global phenomenon. The transformation gave the impaired the ability to be part of mainstream society. To live, work, and dream just like regular individuals do.

Aesthetics and universal design: The built environment has been the most receptive to this concept. As the amenities in structures transformed, aesthetics are quick to respond. It actually added new dimension to the design. Architects simply devised some ways to meet the challenge, making use of the elements truthfully to create a pure composition. Design drama is achieved by applying the principles of design forcefully to adapt to the spatial reality. The end result is both refreshing and poignantly revealing. It is as if the challenge has only become secondary and not really mind boggling.

Remember that our brothers who are physically challenged need to coexist fluidly, but should be met with genuine concern from everybody.

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