Universal Design of Products and Services

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) recognises that most designs are comprised of a combination of products and services that make up systems and built environments. It promotes that for a design to be universal it should be easily accessed, understood and used by all people to greatest extent possible regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

The term “design” is often understood and used as both a verb and a noun. Design (the verb) is a process that creates a design as an output (the noun). Generally, designers work to establish or align with an agreed standard of value for all stakeholders involved. Some say that to design is to set a standard. The features and elements of a design should achieve some of the 29 Universal Design Guidelines to demonstrate alignment with the 7 Universal Design Principles.

Design activities can be based on a systematic process such as the Double Diamond. The Double Diamond is a simple design process model that expresses divergent and convergent activities across four distinct phases or stages of: 

  • Discover 
  • Define 
  • Develop 
  • Deliver

Universal Design for All Approach is a design process that intends to prioritise accessibility and usability in its outputs. It can be very effective to directly engage with or represent the needs of people with more diverse abilities, characteristics, and preferences. It is also recommended that knowledge from existing design guidance and accessibility standards be considered.

The guidance in ISO/IEC Guide 71:2014 can inform designs for accessibility and usability. In Clause 6 it lists existing knowledge as design considerations. In Clause 7 it summarises the functional characteristics of people based on the World Health Organisation – International Classification of Functioning of people (WHO-ICF). In Annex B it also offers a tool to identify correct terminology to describe people.

In Ireland, it is recommended to directly engage with members of Disabled Persons' Organisations (DPOs) to enable their participation in designs that affect them, as described in Participation Matters.

This website hosts a range of Guidance for Universal Design along with Universal Design Standards for Accessibility. These publications can help designers and procurers to apply the Principles and Guidelines of Universal Design in their work and to demonstrate to others that accessibility and usability have been addressed.

Universal Design and accessibility is included in design guidance about: 

Examples of standards with design considerations for Universal Design and accessibility include:

  • Customer Communications
  • Transport
  • Utilities
  • Tourism

Once a Universal Design approach has been applied, the standard I.S. EN 17161: 2019 - Design for All - Accessibility following a Design for All approach in products, goods and services - Extending the range of users can be used by organisations as a self-assessment to demonstrate their compliance with accessibility requirements. 

An example of a design project referencing relevant standards in its user research and user testing is Technical Guidelines for In Home Displays.