Disability and Rehabilitation vol:36 issue:16 pages:1360-1368
Purpose: Studies suggest that the concept of universal design (UD) is not widely accepted and that some of its ideas are received rather sceptically. This article confronts the concept of UD with prevailing notions and practices of design. It examines how UD can be situated relative to design in general, and explores whether elements in the nature of design can help us explain this scepticism. Methods: The article confronts writings about how design is understood with the concept and ideas of UD. This confrontation is substantiated with examples from studies of
design processes in architectural design practice. Results: The confrontation highlights the
ambiguity of how UD is framed and presented, ranging from an attitude over something utopian to a normative design domain.
Conclusions: (1) Besides UD other attitudes are thinkable
that address the diversity in human abilities and conditions. (2) The impossibility to really design for everyone may be inherent to design rather than characteristic of UD. (3) Even if UD as a normative design domain were a top priority, the question remains how to assess whether a design is universally usable given the nature of design (problems), and prevailing design practices.