Universal in Design Architecture

What is Universal Design?

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. This is usually divided into 7 general principles:

  • Principle 1: Equitable Use
    The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  • Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
    The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
    Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  • Principle 4: Perceptible Information
    The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  • Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
    The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  • Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
    The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  • Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
    Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

For more information about universal design, see the links below.

The Principles of Universal Design

Ted Talk on Universal Design

Inclusive Housing A Pattern Book: Design for Diversity and Equality

Making Homes Visitable

Stay in Your Home as You Age: A Checklist

Benefits of Visitability Issue Brief

The IC Universal Design Issue Brief

Universal Design & Affordable Housing:  What is the Need?

People with disabilities in Colorado Springs & El Paso County need more housing options that are both affordable and accessible.  In 2014, we had a gap of over 24, 500 affordable units and that number has continued to grow.  Further, people with disabilities in our region are more likely to be low-income or live in poverty, resulting in a disproportionate need for affordable housing options.  Thus, affordability is the first barrier to accessibility for many people with disabilities; the second barrier is the architectural barriers to getting in and using the facilities.

Even if affordable, most market rate housing lacks basic accessibility features.  Subsidized housing developed through federal funding may have more options, but are only required to have 5% of their units (or at least one) that are accessible to those with mobility disabilities and 3% of their units (or at least one) that are accessible to those with audio or visual disabilities.  A majority of these accessible units developed are age restricted, further limiting options for people with disabilities under 65.

According to the City of Colorado Springs, in the Affordable Housing Needs Assessment – Final Edition October 2014, there are around 60,000 citizens in El Paso County with a disability that might impact their housing needs. This translates to longer wait times for subsidized housing and longer searches in the private markets. In 2012, 10% of the population age 5 and older in El Paso County reported a disability.  That’s children, working-age adults, and seniors- all looking for housing that is affordable and accessible and a community that is livable. For more information on affordable housing and housing as relates to people with disabilities, visit the links below.

City of COS & El Paso County Affordable Housing Needs Assessment

The State of Housing in America in the 21st Century:  A Disability Perspective

Collaborative Solutions: What do we Want?

To create a community that is inclusive and livable for all, the Independence Center supports the development of affordable public and private housing that is fully Universally Designed and non-age restricted.  The Center welcomes collaboration on affordable housing projects that incorporate these principles.  To learn more about the specific design features and their benefits to all people throughout the lifespan, please visit the link below from the Center for Universal Design at NC State University. If your organization is interested in collaborating on a project, please contact The IC at

North Carolina State University’s Universal Design in Housing

Universal Design Options in The Pikes Peak Region

Currently, the region is limited in housing options that are both accessible and affordable.  The resources linked below may not hit both criteria, but we want to highlight the Universally Designed options that are available now, and those planned for the near future.  It is our sincere hope that through continued collaboration, this resource list will grow exponentially.

Success Stories in Universal Design

Jeremy Chatelain, who has quadriplegia, chose to have his home constructed using universal design principles. This makes it possible for people with or without disabilities to use his home. The features are designed in a way that blend in with the architecture of the home, lending the appearance of any other home. Features such as zero-step doorways, lever door and faucet handles, lower light switches, higher wall outlets, disguised grab bars, zero-step showers, and properly proportioned countertops, all come together to form a beautiful and fully accessible home that can be used by individuals of any ability.