October 15, 2018

Implementing a Universal Design Strategy in Your Organization

From higher education to health and Wellness, organizations today face numerous challenges when planning for the needs of users who utilize their location and spaces. Today’s dedication goes beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which mandated equal access for all. Today, we hold organizations at a higher standard and demand equality for all.

Universal Design is dedicated to designing spaces where everyone is given what they need to succeed.  While grounded in ADA, it offers far more potential for inclusion. Universal Design dares us to look further than differences in physical abilities or disabilities. It is an opportunity to form a brand where physical and social barriers are removed to create an environment that was designed with everyone in mind. With a desire to learn why institutions are interested in pursuing a Universal Design strategy, we interviewed a wide range of community, higher education, and workplace organizations to gain their insights. From those conversations, we recognized four primary themes:

  • Diversity - Workforce and student diversity continue to increase. Leadership teams are starting to recognize the importance in designing inclusive places and creating spaces that are easy to understand regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, or language skills.
  • Competition for talent - Competition for talent and students continues to be fierce. A skillfully executed workplace or learning environment can be a positive differential for organizations. It sends a profound statement to all employees about an organization’s commitment of creating spaces for everyone where individuals and teams can flourish.
  • Improved safety - Improving safety measures are critical to organizations across the board while reducing accidents mitigates lost productivity and related expenses. A key outcome of Universal Design is that the design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  • Renovation over new build - Many organizations are choosing to renovate existing buildings instead of building new. With renovations come unique challenges with implementing accessibility best practices. Universal Design allows an Owner to make choices from a framework of strategies recognizing the context in which design takes place rather than imposing an absolute standard to every situation.

These themes reinforce our belief that by implementing a Universal Design strategy into your organization’s goals, it becomes an effective way to differentiate yourself while having a positive impact on your ROI. Universal design is a process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, safety, and social participation. Universal Design is a change in mindset, a universal approach that responds to a wider range of people and embracing their diverse abilities. It’s good design.

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