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» Universal Design

Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
(Ronald L. Mace, 1988)
What does Universal Design stand for?
The term Universal Design was introduced by the American architect Ronald L. Mace who for the first time used it in the mid 1980s. Universal Design neither stands for standardisation nor for uniformity. Rather its concept is oriented towards people. Universal Design aims at making our environment accessible and usable for as many people as possible via design.
Regardless of peoples' individual skills or peoples' age, sex or their cultural background the concept aims at offering everyone equal participation in our society. Discrimination of people via design that isolates them from accessing certain services, spaces and products is to be avoided.

Demographic change

Especially because of the demographic change the subject Universal Design nowadays experiences a growing importance in the international contexts of research, design and economy.
The growing ageing of the population calls for new requirements in term of design of our environment in all spheres: design of buildings and infrastructures, as well as design of products, information and communication systems, and conceptual design of services.
According to some estimates the number of people at the age of 60 is going to double by the year 2030. Elderly people are no longer considered as a marginal social group with special needs. Rather they are, from a entrepreneurial perspective, an important customer group. Some marketing surveys use terms like Generation Gold, Silver Age, Generation Plus or rather 50 Plus, Woopies (well off older people) instead of devaluating terms like the old or seniors to grade up the status of the elderly people on the consumer market.
Non-age-specific products
Considering the needs of older consumers and to reflect them in the design of products became an important concern which promises advantages in competition and success on the market.
People exceeding the age of 50 are numerically and financially an important group. They are already, according to a survey by Roland Berger Strategy Consultans, responsible for almost half of people´s consumption. This group will keep growing on importance because of demographical change.
Furthermore, surveys like the one from the London Research Institute Ricability, show that products that are designed in consideration of the needs of people from older generation seem to be attractive to everyone because of its user-friendliness and improved use. One important condition is that these products are not to appear as discriminatory, in other words, to appear as age-specified.