According to the R.L. Mace Universal Design Institute, based in North Carolina, there are seven principles to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process, and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

These principles provide the basic tenets (our June feature story, “Lifelong Design,” focuses on the implementation of universal design.)

A more detailed list  of the seven principles is also available.

1. Equitable use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

  • Provide the same means of use for all users.
  • Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.
  • Make the design appealing to all users.

2. Flexibility in use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

  • Provide choice in methods of use.
  • Facilitate the user’s accuracy and precision.
  • Provide adaptability to the user’s pace.

3. Simple and intuitive: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
  • Be consistent with user expectations.
  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.

4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

  • Use different modes (pictorial, oral, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
  • Provide adequate contrast be­tween essential information and its surroundings.
  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described.

5. Tolerance for error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

  • Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most-used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated or shielded.
  • Provide warnings of hazards/errors.
  • Provide fail-safe features.

6. Low physical effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

  • Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
  • Use reasonable operating forces.
  • Minimize sustained physical effort.

7. Size and space for approach and use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

  • Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
  • Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
  • Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.

You can also find more information and remodeling ideas for the next stage of life at