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16 Examples of Universal Design

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Universal design is the design of buildings, environments, products, services and user interfaces that are broadly accessible to people with disabilities, older people, young children and everyone else. It is a rejection of the notion that things be designed for the "average" person. Instead things are designed for an extremely diverse range of abilities and situations. The following are illustrative examples.

Barrier Free

Avoiding elements that can get in the way. In many cases, universal designs end up being open and minimalistic. For example, a shower with no doors.

Height & Width

Wide spaces with features that are accessible low to the ground.

Ease of Operation

Designs that can be operated by the broadest range of people possible. For example, a large, easy-to-press button to open an automatic door. This allows the button to be operated in a variety of ways such as pressing your hip against it.

Intuitive Operation

Designs that work as people expect.

Touch Controls

Buttons and controls that can be distinguished by touch using shape, position and feel.

Error-tolerant Design

Designs that attempt to understand an input even if it's not exactly correct. For example, buttons with a wide touch target such that you don't have to hit controls with precision for them to work.


Feature variety such as sinks at different heights. Most common in large public spaces where there is capacity to offer options.


Tools such as handles.


Automation such as automatic doors and adaptive lighting that comes on when someone approaches.


Fluid designs that can be easily reconfigured. For example, a bathtub with one side that can be collapsed into the floor.


Information that is presented in a variety of formats including visual, audio and touch.

Text & Symbols

Use of large text in a highly readable font. Pair textual information with symbols and simple diagrams that convey critical information.

Visual Contrast

Use of visual contrast such as standard black on white or complementary colors.

Tactile Surfaces

Surfaces that provide information in the form of touch. For example, sidewalks that can be navigated by touching tactile paving with a cane.


Ample lighting that may adapt to the situation and highlight things. For example, a button or handle might have a slight glow.


Safety features such as non-slip floor tiles.
Overview: Universal Design
The practice of designing environments, user interfaces, products, services and information to be universally accessible.
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