The History of Universal Design: A PCBC Conversation

Susan Duncan and Beth Taylor discuss the root of Universal Design and how it’s evolved over the years.


Catch all of the PCBC conversation on our YouTube playlist: A PCBC Conversation.

The following is a transcript of the video “The History of Universal Design: A PCBC Conversation” :

Nigel: Okay, so as an exercise, let’s talk a little bit about the history of universal design and accessibility. First of all, Susan, are the two terms interchangeable?

Susan: Yes, on a prescriptive method or on a prescriptive methodology, if you will, for ADA. So let me back up and tell you a little bit about, if you don’t mind, tell you a little bit more about the history of accessibility and universal design.

Typically, what happened was in the 1950s, we had barrier-free movement and that was to have a social policy of moving people out of institutions and into the community. In the ’60s, we had Disability Civil Rights Act and all of that movement, working with people with disabilities, and then it ended up with law. And then, in the ’70s, the focus became on accessible design, and in accessible design, it was primarily around people using mobility equipment, people using wheelchairs, and so that’s what the design was, was accessible design very customized for individuals with disabilities. And then, in the ’80s, Ron Mace began using the term “universal design”, knowing that “universal” was an ideal. And then, 1990s, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act is an anti-discrimination law, and with that came some design standards and those are federal design standards. So in the ’90s, also, was the development of universal design definition and principles.

Nigel: Okay.