Home Products Universal Design Downloads On-Line Store Contact Us


12518 NE Airport Way

Portland, OR


Store Hours:

M-F   9:00 - 5:00

Sat    By Appointment


20750 High Desert Lane

Bend, OR


Store Hours:

M-S By Appointment

About Today.

Imperfection, in the sense used above, can be interpreted as “less than perfect health” or “disability.” It’s easy to offload the responsibility of making sure that the people affected by imperfection are accommodated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or things designed for those with “special needs.” The reality is that the ADA is poorly implemented and enforced – almost everywhere. Despite its good intentions, the ADA is complex, and compliance is often viewed as an inconvenience or an annoying expense. Disability-specific products and programs are also well-intentioned, but come with a high price tag due to the economic principle of supply and demand, which unfortunately makes them unavailable to many who live on limited incomes due to disability. The end result is segregation of our society.

Universal design has gained in popularity, yet most momentum is in the homebuilding industry. We commend this, but the potential of the universal design movement is largely overlooked by most communities, which is an equally important area to focus on. Think about it. If people can comfortably “age in place” in their homes, but cannot participate safely and comfortably in society, what’s going to happen?

     Universal design doesn’t place focus on people with disabilities. Instead, it recognizes that no one has the same definition of “normal.

Change Is Inevitable.

Due to a rapidly aging population and higher prevalence of disability, we’re starting to see the trend of universal design gain traction. Lots of people want to maintain normalcy throughout life, despite circumstances beyond their control. However, no one has the same definition of “normal,” and normalcy is difficult to portray. Strategic implementation of universal design sooner than later is not only smart, but it’s a preemptive strike against the unexpected.

Every human being has the potential to experience a decrease in health, which makes no one immune to experiencing some form of disability. As scary as this may sound, disability is a universal human experience. That said, we can minimize its effects on life by mainstreaming universal design in our society.

What is Universal Design?

It’s about making people feel “welcome.”

Universal design is a concept used to create places, products, and programs that are accessible and usable by the greatest number of people, regardless of ability level.

We didn’t invent universal design (credit: Ron Mace), but we simplified the original 7 principles and 30 guidelines – © 1997, NC State University – into 4 characteristics:

1. Flexible

The design can meet the needs and desires of                 people with different abilities.

2. Impartial

The design doesn’t have an ability requirement for           access, manipulation, or comprehension.

3. Safe

The design has safeguards to minimize or                        eliminate hazards.

4. Simple

The design is easy to access, manipulate, &                     understand.

Regardless if there is a present need or not, the future includes unexpected events. There are all sorts of physical and mental limitations that people struggle with, and the implementation of universal design is a way to minimize – or even eliminate – the effects that such limitations have on someone’s independence and quality of life. Universal design retains an outward appearance of normalcy for everyone, and doesn’t segregate or stigmatize the same way that disability-specific accommodations have a tendency to do.

The Need:

According to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability, about 15% of the world’s population has a disability. The prevalence is growing due to population aging and the global increase in chronic health conditions. While these numbers are global, they do align with the USA rather well.

It is important to recognize that while universal design does directly benefit people with disabilities, it’s more about making life better for society as a whole.

Universal Design: The perfect  combination of “form and function”