an inTeRlink feature
by Charles A. Sourby, MS Ed. CTRS-HTR
traditionally advocate for the clientele they serve. This
is a call for all Recreation Therapists to advocate for Universal
Design. Universal design enables everybody—not just
people with disabilities—to navigate, manipulate, and
appreciate the world.” Curb cuts, non-slip flooring,
grab bars and automatic doors make life easier for everybody.
Universal Design eliminates the need for special accommodations.
The Americans’ With Disabilities
Act: (ADA 1990), covers the civil rights for people with
disabilities. The ADA is there to insure reasonable accommodations
in public places, prohibit discrimination based on disabling
conditions and to define disabilities. Universal Design takes
the ADA to the next level.
Product and space designers are
considering the universal needs of all people. The increasing
number of people aging has product designers “slowly
beginning to solve problems using the principles of Universal
Design”. This has a benefit for all people. New technologies
are entering the market place: adjustable kitchen sinks,
power assistance vehicles, automatic doors and foot buttons
There are seven principles that
uphold the philosophy of universal design:
1. Equitable: addresses wide range
2. Flexibility in Use: “hands
free” operation of faucets, sliding doors
3. Simple and Intuitive Use:
high contrast, large “on/off” controls
4. Perceptible Information: Telephone & remotes
with large buttons
5. Tolerance for Error: Glare
reducing surfaces, non-slip floors
6. Low Physical Effort: fat pen
7. Size and Space for Approach
and Use: a standard width for doorways, roll-in showers and
bathroom stalls for wheelchairs & walkers
Universal Design goes beyond
ADA compliance. Many hotels and conference centers have installed
features of universal design, making their facilities exceed
ADA standards. Universal Design takes into account ease of
mobility, distance, functionality. Universal Design can eliminate
many problems. Architects and planners need to build an environment
that serves an ever increasing diverse population.
Universal Design is not Assistive
Technology. Think of accessibility as a continuum. On one
end is Universal Design: on the other is assistive technology.
Technologies including voice activated and keyless computer
key-boards are for specific populations. Universal Design
addresses the needs of the population as a whole. Together,
both concepts improve the quality of life for everybody.
People without disabilities do
not always appreciate the difficulties and embarrassment
that comes with disabling conditions. The person with disabilities
wants to function in the least restrictive environment. Universal
design minimizes the disability and maximizes functioning
for all. Universal Design brings the ADA up to date.
1 Adelson, Rachel (2004), Universal Design: Opening Every
Door, Inside MS, October—December 2004.
All rights reserved.