A barrier-free environment, products that are safe and easy to use, technologies and functions that are geared to the needs of people and represent improved quality of life – these are all objectives of universal design. In particular against the backdrop of demographic change, universal design is gaining in significance in the contexts of international research, design and business.

Universal design represents neither standardisation nor cultural uniformity. Far more, the concept takes a social approach to design. The aim is to integrate the needs of as many people as possible in the design process, and to create structures from which everyone can benefit. Products should be accessible and usable for as many people as possible.

Demographic change

Demographic change poses new challenges in the design of our surroundings. This applies to the architecture of buildings and of communication and information systems, as well as to the design of products and services. Today, knowledge of the needs of older consumers – and the incorporation of this knowledge in the development of products and services – promises market success and a clear competitive advantage. Both numerically and financially, the over-60s are an important target group. With a mind to the needs of older people, products are being developed that feature greater usability and improved handling, making them attractive for all generations. Throughout, an important requirement is that the products do not give the impression that they are made only »for seniors«. Namely, they should not be discriminatory.

Cross-generational design

The requirements for an approach to design that follows universal design principles are not limited to the conception of aesthetically appealing age-specific products (shopping trolleys, walking aids, big-button telephones, handholds, bath seats etc.) or the design of barrier-free homes for the elderly. Rather, it is about reducing the complexity of objects of daily use and creating clearly-structured and intuitive user interfaces – packaging that anyone can open, manuals that everyone can understand, homes that are habitable for people of all ages, among numerous other examples. In short: people-friendly design.

Projects on this topic

Universal Design Quality Label

Design for All

Research & Study

Innovations for Active Ageing

Universal Design Network

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