J. L. Mueller, Inc. Universal Design of Products      
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Universal Design of Products

Why Universal Design?

Although Universal Design grew out of an effort to include elders and people with disabilities, it really benefits everyone to some degree. Door levers, for example, are preferable to knobs for people carrying packages, just as they are for people with arthritis. Still, much design practice remains based on military human factors data - a practice that does not fit the realities of today's population:

"It is not customary to design for everyone. The few at either end of the normal curve may be so extreme that an encompassing design could become too large or expensive to produce. The military chose to exclude 5% at the small end and 5% at the large end, thus accommodating 90% of the measured population in the Military Standards" (Henry Dreyfuss Associates, 1993).

How many of us conform to the abilities of 90% of the persons in military service? Product manufactures are just beginning to realize that their customers are not the average Joe and Josephine (Henry Dreyfuss Associates, 1967) shown in human factors data and that the "minorities" at the far ends of the population are significant markets indeed.

Universal Design and You

:: No One is "Average"

The "average" individual is more of a minority than ever before - designing for the average Joe and Josephine neglects the needs of everyone who lives long enough to experience functional limitations. More of us than ever are likely to do so. Regardless of whether we consider ourselves young or old, able or disabled, each of us finds the need to adapt to design at some time or another. The beauty of Universal Design is that we don't have to accept stigma along with design we can truly use.

:: Aging in place - with grace

"Don't lie about your age - defy it". That's great advice, but a little difficult to accept, as we struggle to focus on the tiny print on the side of a child-proof bottle of ibuprofen that requires a child's dexterity to overcome (Mueller and Mace, 1997). Every one of us who lives long enough will face changes in mental, physical, and sensory abilities. Although we can't stop these changes, we can apply Principles of Universal Design to the environment around us to allow us to use our abilities to the fullest.

:: Challenge and Fulfillment

Design and marketing professionals who have taken the initiative in implementing Universal Design in their businesses have achieved more than business success. Universal Design presents a fresh challenge to senior professionals who feel they have "done it all".

Some who began the process with some fears about breaking new ground found it a personally rewarding experience. A vice president of marketing for Leviton Manufacturing Company, Inc. noted that his company's efforts had changed his perspective about who his customers really are: "Universal Design has become an extremely important idea to us - maybe the most important idea." (Mueller and Ingols, 1997).

 

Outline:
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Why Universal Design?
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Universal Design and You

Links:
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Principles of Universal Design