October 21, 2019

In the Workplace, Universal Design Responds to Changing Social Norms

Organizations are pursuing Universal Design for good reason. Companies are competing for talent who want to work at places where everyone is given a chance to succeed and the facilities respond to new and diverse cultural norms. Four years from now, college graduates will not accept a place where physical and social barriers still exist. Instead, they will look to other companies who have” put a stake in the ground” and implemented Universal Design strategies allowing individuals and teams to flourish.

We’re seeing it throughout the marketplace in all building types as organizations realize that today’s workforce will continue to come from diverse backgrounds and abilities. People are eager to learn more and see how they can make their facilities and campuses more inclusive by embracing everyone, while truly creating a differential as they compete for the very best talent.

For companies pursuing LEED for environmental responsibility and WELL standards, Universal Design puts accessibility at the forefront of design that leads to a truly inclusive environment. The result of Universal Design is work environments that are instinctively more accessible, inclusive and equal for everyone. In addition, a key outcome of UD is improved safety as the design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

“Universal Design is about celebrating and valuing the diversity of people as a natural part of the human experience,” says Peter Blanck,chairman of the Global Universal Design Commission. “Universal Design is about including all individuals in the collective enterprises and experiences that society has to offer to the maximum extent possible, and not excluding people based on difference alone.”

As the workplace trends for cross-disciplinary collaborations and resource sharing accelerate, spaces that are highly accessible and promote best practices in inclusivity are required to support a diverse participant group of people. A company’s mission statement and values often refer to promoting diversity and inclusion so the design of their facilities must be aligned with these declarations, otherwise, people will see through the curtain. It sends a profound statement to all employees on the organization's commitment of creating spaces for everyone.

Many organizations are choosing to renovate existing buildings and with that comes 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.

Universal Design is dedicated to design strategies where everyone is given what they need to succeed and companies who implement Universal Design ultimately see it as a tangible benefit and a return on their investment. In short, Universal Design has the potential to make daily and work-life healthier, more productive, friendlier, and requires continuous improvement towards thegoal of full inclusion.

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