As much as we help customers with tile design questions, we aren't fully immersed in Universal Design.
However, after being inspired by the Kohler presentation titled "Universal Design in a New Normal" at the ASID Florida West Chapter meeting which took place at Tile Outlets in Sarasota, we've been discussing the Principles of Universal Design and how designing with tile fits in.
What is Universal Design?
Universal Design is often associated with the Americans With Disabilities Act. That said, it really goes beyond that to take into account the needs of all. Universal Design is about designing and creating digital and real life spaces that are user friendly to all - whether old or young, with physical issues or not. Ultimately, "Universal Design is Good Design." It's also referred to as "inclusive" design.
The 7 Principles of Universal Design
Developed in 1997, the 7 Principles of Universal Design were the result of thoughtful practical guidelines that a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by Architect Ronald Mace at North Carolina State University agreed on. According to the Center for Universal Design in NCSU, the Principles "may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments." They consist of:
1. Equitable use
The design is useful to a wide range of people with varying abilities.
2. Flexibility in use
The design can accommodate a wide range of preferences and abilities
3.Simple and intuitive use
The design is easy to understand regardless of experience, knowledge, language or ability to concentrate.
4. Perceptible information
The design communicates information effectively, regardless of ambient conditions or sensory abilities.
5. Tolerance for error
The design minimizes hazards and negative consequences of untended actions.
6. Low physical effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably with minimal fatigue.
7. Size and space for approach and use
Size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of user’s size, posture or mobility.
How Universal Design Translates Into Physical Spaces
The beauty of Universal Design is that it makes you think about physical spaces and how to make them useful for all those around you.
More specifically, it accommodates aging in place, affects the flow of space and how people travel through hallways and rooms. You start to think about the transitions from room to room and how they should be spacious. You become aware that surfaces should easily handle wheels, feet, walkers and people, not to mention that they should also offer easy maintenance.
These are all considerations that tile designs can reflect assuming awareness of the principles of Universal Design.
For example, walk-in showers with flush inline drain transition rather than a step reflect Universal Design. Showers which include benches, shelving and handles do so, too.
How Universal Design Relates to Designing With Tile
Many of the spaces that Universal Design focuses on - kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor spaces - are ones where tile shines.
After all, tile is flexible and versatile. It's practical yet allows for magnificent design possibilities.
It's easy to maintain and care for, and can even be engineered to be slip-resistant.
So, why not consider Universal Design when designing with tile?
Do you agree? Let me know what your experience is with Universal Design and how you like to include tile as you design your space.
Here are a few other resources re: Universal Design:
- What is Universal Design?
- Accessibility in the City - also the source for the Universal Design logo image above
- 10+ Aging-In-Place Home Design Tips