Accessible vs Universal Design

A common question that keeps popping in the design world: What is the difference between accessible design and universal design, aren't they the same?

My perspective πŸ‘‡

Accessible Design at its heart is all about considering the needs of people with disabilities whereas Universal Design is all about considering the needs of people with abilities to the greatest extent possible without needing adaptation for a specialised design. While accessible design is all about meeting the minimum requirements to achieve usability set by Disabilities act, Universal Design is all about exceeding the minimum standards to meet the needs of the greatest number of people.

All said and done, both accessible and universal design principles are concerned with addressing the needs of users beyond those considered to be average or typical.

When Universal design is done right, it benefits people with disabilities as well. For example, designing sidewalks with curb cuts, doors that automatically open based on motion benefits everyone including parents with strollers, delivery workers carrying heavy loads, when handling a patient in a wheel chair and more.

Similarly when accessible design is done right, it benefits everyone with abilities and disabilities. For example, having ability to adjust contrast and size of fonts on a phone screen allows everyone to change the text size and theme of the page as they’re interacting with it.

Universal design considers a wide spectrum of human characteristics including age, gender, stature, race, ethnicity, culture, native language and other preferences. Accessible design focuses on a certain set of disabilities like limited or no hearing, decreased or no vision etc.

The bottomline of both accessible and universal design is to bring better experience to everyone regardless of the context, abilities or situation through inclusivity.

πŸ₯‚ to design!

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