The term universal design may be coined by Ronald Mace but it was actually Selwyn Goldsmith, who pioneered the concept of free access for disabled people in 1963 through his book “Designing for the Disabled“. It was said that his greatest contribution was the creation of the dropped curb, which is now a standard in the building environment.

Sidewalk Ramp 500x356
Image: flickr.com/photos/lennox_mcdough

So what are these universal designs? Aside from the curb cuts or what is commonly known as sidewalk ramps, these include the color-contrast dish ware with steep sides to assist people with visual problems. They may also come in the form of home appliances like cabinets with pull-out shelves, or kitchen counters of different height to accommodate people who have difficulty standing up. These designs are very much common with the world’s public transit systems where there are low-floor buses or they are sometimes equipped with ramps.

Universal design aims to assist not only people with disability but for old people and children as well. It is being applied to the design of technology, instruction, services and other products. If you happen to see some tiny dots in elevator controls or in your fax machine, wonder no more. These are designed for people who can understand the Braille language.