Universal Design, How Do We Understand It?
An Establishment of Tools to Understand Universal Design
Michael A. Kahwaji, University of Notre Dame
The sun rises in the morning, about 6:00 am and the alarm is buzzing. You shut the alarm off, get out of bed and brush your teeth, shower, get dressed and eat breakfast. Then at 7:00 am you are ready to do your daily routine. Now let us look at this same process for people with physical limitations. The alarm is buzzing at 5:30 am to allow for extra time to do common tasks. It is difficult to shut of the alarm because the switch is too small and hard to locate. When you go to brush your teeth you have trouble getting the cap off the toothpaste.It is hard to turn on the water because of the spherical shape of the handle. Your joints hurt and you get fatigued from getting dressed. Breakfast poses a greater challenge due to all the twisting and turning of lids and the weight of containers. Buttering toast is a feat due to the difficulty in gripping the knife handle. Pouring milk in your coffee is difficult, if not impossible, because of the weight of the milk carton. Drinking the coffee is hard because the handle is too small. After all this you take a moment to catch your breath and by 7:00 am you are ready to do your daily routine.
Buttering toast should not be this individual’s greatest feat of the day; life should be simple for all people. It is evident by the above scenario that there is a necessity for universally designed products. In order to achieve this, it is essential to increase the industrial designer’s awareness of the needs of the physically disabled, children, and elderly. This can be attained by introducing to designers a variety of tools in order for the designer to gain a comprehension of specific physical limitations. Ultimately, what needs to be identified are specific disabilities in terms familiar to designers, as well as physical guidelines that will help develop more intelligent universal products.