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Universal Design

The Disability Act 2005 defines Universal Design, or UD, as:

The design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used:

  • To the greatest possible extent
  • In the most independent and natural manner possible
  • In the widest possible range of situations
  • Without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialised solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability, and means, in relation to electronic systems, any electronics-based process of creating products, services or systems so that they may be used by any person.

In summation, Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it.

Universal Design should incorporate both user-aware design and customisable design.

User-Aware Design pushes the boundaries of 'mainstream' products, services and environments to include as many people as possible.

Customisable Design minimises the difficulties of adaptation for users.

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the NDA also produces guidance to help public bodies create EDI work environments. The Building for Everyone: A Universal Design Approach suite, for example, provides guidance on creating buildings and spaces so that they can be readily accessed and used by everyone, regardless of age, size ability or disability.

The Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service - A Universal Design Approach provides guidance on creating universally designed written, verbal and digital communications which will also assist public bodies to meet their statutory obligations to provide:

  • Accessible communications and Irish Sign Language Services as detailed under the Irish Sign Language Act 2017
  • Accessible web and mobile apps as detailed under European Union (Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies) Regulations 2020

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has also published a document detailing the Seven Principles of Universal Design

These publications and additional guidance on Universal Design can be downloaded at


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