Barrier-Free to Universal Design

Early on, advocates of barrier-free design and architectural accessibility recognized the legal, economic, and social power of a concept that addressed the common needs of people with and without disabilities. As architects began to wrestle with the implementation of standards, it became apparent that segregated accessible features were “special,” more expensive, and usually ugly. It also became apparent that many of the environmental changes needed to accommodate people with disabilities actually benefited everyone. Recognition that many such features could be commonly provided and thus less expensive, unlabeled, attractive, and even marketable, laid the foundation for the universal design movement.

The Future

Today, Universal Design is more important than ever before, and will continue to gain in importance in the next decades.

Disability and difficulty with everyday tasks increase dramatically with age. The world population is experiencing an unprecedented and rapid ageing. These factors have already combined to create a greater need for products that accommodate a wide range of abilities, and the demand will grow significantly in the coming years.

Also, mobile web technologies (such as smartphones and tablet computers) impose limitations on users and developers that are very similar to the limitations of assistive technology used by people with disabilities. Mobile web use is growing exponentially, at a faster rate than any technology before it. The parallels between assistive technology and the mobile web mean that designing hardware and software for universal use will be more profitable than ever.

The demographic, legislative, economic, and social changes that brought us to this point are more important than ever in accommodating of individual differences. Universal design provides a blueprint to address many of the challenges faced by people and societies in the coming years.

AO Communications and Universal Design

We have found that good design often becomes less important, or non-existent, in order to meet the standards of accessibility. Alpha One Communications applies the rules and perspectives of universal access and design to all of the work that we create; whether it’s web or print media. We take pride in making sure that the work we produce is not only well designed, but is also accessible to the full spectrum of abilities.