Thursday, May 31, 2007

Universal design needs to consider low vision users

Scott over at Rolling Rains posts about an article stating that low vision users do not receive the consideration they need when universal design planning is done. (Click above to read his post).

One of my blind friends Sue was telling me that the curbcuts wheelchair users need are a huge problem for her mobility. She provided input on a local level to the design plans for curbcuts so they would take into consideration the needs of blind and low vision people. This may seem obvious to say but it's important to design accommodations in a way that does not present further barriers for folks with other disabilities.

It is also important, as the article Scott cites points out, to consider lighting conditions when planning for low vision users. The article describes the difficulties a woman with low vision encounters in her own home due to the lighting conditions- a situation that will become more common in the baby boomer generation.

As we see more input from people with disabilities, hopefully architects and others will learn what constitutes true "universal design". To achieve that goal, I encourage readers to speak up if they encounter accommodations that present additional barriers or have ideas to improve future designs. Your experiences and input are valuable.


Scott Rains said...

Hi Ruth,

I'd phrase it just a bit differently.

I don't think that "Universal Design" is flawed or prejudiced. UD is a design philosophy summarized in seven principles. All aspects of the philosopy and each of the principles individually or in combination apply equally to blind as well as mobility impaired people.

That is, there is no "thing" you can point at and say that is Universal Design. Universal Design is a process.

Many journalists are making that mistake. They list ADA building specs or specific accessibility solutions and call it UD. Frankly, if you just take some typical accessibility solution - like a standard curb cut design - off-the-shelf and plug it into a project you have not engaged in a human-centere) design process (UD or otherwise.) You have done a snap-together assembly job.

I do think thre is room for lots of discussion about UD and how it can be better practiced but only if we understand that the practice is design not construction-by-checklist.

Here are the seven principles of Universal Design:

Ruth said...

Thanks for your clarification and the link . Many do misunderstand what Universal Design actually is and view it as a construction checklist - your input here is much appreciated .