Toward Universal Design
interest in design for people with disabilities in the built environment
dates back to efforts of disabled WWII veterans in the 1950's. The
first standard for accessibility in the built environment, "American
National Standard Specifications for Making Buildings and Facilities
Accessible to, and Usable by, the Physically Handicapped" was
published in 1961 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI,
toward civil rights legislation for people with disabilities increased
with the civil rights movement of the 1960's. Along with laws prohibiting
discrimination on the basis of disability came requirements for
access to education, public accommodations, telecommunications,
and transportation (Story, Mueller, and Mace, 1998):
Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
and The Education for Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (later dubbed
IDEA) outlawed physical and program barriers against people with
disabilities. This includes physical accessibility of buildings
designed, constructed, altered, or leased through federal funds.
Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988 requires that units be created
in all new multi-family housing to comply with accessibility guidelines
issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) consolidated many
of the provisions of earlier disability legislation, requiring accessibility
to places of public accommodations (public businesses, hospitals,
day-care centers, etc.), as well as telecommunications and public
transportation services. The U.S. Department of Justice issued the
ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) in 1991. In addition, the ADA
requires "reasonable accommodation" of qualified persons
with disabilities by employers, which may include physical job and
Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 requires that all television sets
with screens 13" or greater incorporate decoder chips to display
captions provided by a growing number of broadcast companies.
255 of The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that telecommunications
services and equipment, including customer premises equipment (CPE)
be accessible and usable by persons with disabilities wherever achievable
within reasonable limits of difficulty and expense.
508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 requires that electronic
and information technology purchased by the federal government is
usable by people with disabilities. This law applies to software
applications and operating systems, web-based internet and intranet
systems, telecommunications products, video and multimedia products,
desktop and portable computers, and self-contained free-standing
products such as fax machines and copiers.
history illustrates the federal government's role in removing barriers
in the built environment to people with disabilities. As experience
has grown in the implementation of these laws, so has awareness
that Universal Design can be an even better approach to promoting
the rights of people with disabilities than "barrier-free"
design. Universal Design promotes an inclusive approach, integrating
the needs of people of all ages and abilities without stigmatizing
those with limitations.