Universal Design is a design philosophy or strategy based on the principal that products, places and programs should be usable by as wide a range of the general population as possible. This strategy is founded on the idea that by insuring use by persons who are least able, we maximize the number of potential users and also create products and services that are easier for more people to use. It is a widely applied and holistic approach to design that is different from design strategies that focus the design of products for persons with a specific disability.
Ron Mace, who is generally credited with founding the Universal Design movement, said it “broadly defines the user. It’s a consumer driven issue. Its focus is not specifically on people with disabilities, but on all people. One might read this another way… that universal design is about our human abilities and not disabilities… what are our abilities from birth to death and how they define the products we use and the environment we live in. And how do designers respond to this challenge.”
Universal Design best practices are identifiable examples where the principals result in a product, place, or program that is essentially transparent in terms of a user’s ability, thus offering an experience that includes all people. Through the research in this project we want to develop an understanding of the tactile experience and how it works in conjunction with an integrated audio descriptive message, and further, how that experience supports a more inclusive direction in the design of exhibits.