Ron Mace a wheelchair using architect, with a physical disability, is credited for coining the term universal design to describe the concept of designing and building environments and communities that are accessible to the greatest extent possible, to everyone regardless of their age, capabilities, or status in life (Center for Universal Design, NCSU). Mace, an advocate for disabled persons and subsequent proponent of universal design have seen the benefits of universal design far beyond the disability community. He became internationally recognized as an architect, product designer and educator whose design philosophy challenged convention and provided a design foundation for a more usable world. Shortly before his death, Mace spoke of the belief that universal design benefits everyone.
Universal design’s focus is not specifically on people with disabilities, but all people. We tend to discount people who are less than what we popularly consider to be “normal.” To be “normal” is to be perfect, capable, competent, and independent. Unfortunately, designers in our society also mistakenly assume that everyone fits this definition of “normal.” This just is not the case.
(Ron Mace, 1998; http://www.ncsu.edu/www/ncsu/design/sod5/cud/about_us/usronmacespeech.htm An edited excerpt of a presentation made by Ronald L. Mace, FAIA, at “Designing for the 21st Century: An International Conference on Universal Design” on June 19, 1998.
Mace joined forces with a working group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers at the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University who define universal design as, “The design of products and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or special design.” Their seven principles of universal design were initially developed for the physical environment but have wide applicability
(Connell, B., Jones, M., Mace, R., Mueller, J., Mullick, A., Ostroff, E., Sanford, J., Steinfeld, E., Story, M., & Vanderheiden, G. 1997; Center for Universal Design, 1997. “The Center for Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University. Retrieved April 10, 2006 from http://www.design.ncsu.edu)