Human Factors and Universal Design Foundation

Like most principles and elements of design, universal design is an enduring approach that draws from both science and spirit. Based solidly on human factors and, along with this quantitative in­formation, it places equal value on the aesthetics of a space or product. Universal design responds to our growing appreciation and respect for diversity in the spaces we design, and in the stature, age, abilities, and culture of the people for whom we design. Simply defined, it is the design of products and spaces to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible.

The study of human dimensions and the design of spaces and products around human factors are solid steps toward good universal design. Traditionally, human factors-based design seemed to center on two extremes. It was either one size fits all for the nonexistent "average person" or totally custom design for each individual client’s dimensions, abilities, and needs. Universal design moves away from these extremes and builds on anthropometry and ergonomics in different ways. It embraces as broad a range of human factors as possible. One example is the placement of a wall switch that is dictated not by the reach range of the average height person, but by overlap of the reach ranges of the shorter and the taller among us. In addition, universal design places equal emphasis on aesthetics, acknowledging the importance of beauty and comfort in design solutions.

In this chapter, you will explore anthropometric and ergonomic information, as well as human factors studies that help guide design of spaces. Also covered are the basic concepts of universal design, which have become essential to good bathroom planning. Throughout this book, universal design concepts have been incorporated where applicable. Further information on access and specific user groups will be the focus of chapter 8, "Accessibility in Practice," which focuses on both universal and access-related design considerations.

Learning Objective 1: Define and describe universal design.

Learning Objective 2: Define and describe anthropometry and its relation to universal design,

Learning Objective 3: identify and list basic components of universal design as outlined in the Principles of Universal Design,

Learning Objective 4: Recognize some of the sources of information on access available in laws, codes, and related standards,