What is accessibility?

The word «tilgjengelighet» is the Norwegian word for accessibility. To make something accessible means facilitating use to include people with disabilities; often through use of temporary measures, such as installing a ramp in a staircase.

Universal design is about everybody being able to use a building or an area, without such temporary measures. The key word is “everybody”. The term universal design is often associated with people with disabilities, which contradicts the vision of Ron Mace of the Center for Universal Design, North Carolina, who first coined the term.

Universal design is best understood through the seven principles The Center for Universal Design established in 1997, the same year that the term entered use in Norway:

  1. Equitable use – i.e. the design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in use – the design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and intuitive use – use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible information – the design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for error – the design minimises hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low physical effort – the design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and space for approach and use – appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user’s posture or mobility.

These principles shall function as guidelines for designers and planners of buildings, outdoor areas, transportation, web pages, machinery, etc. – in other words, anything that is relevant to finding your way in society.

In the regional plan, universal design is defined as:
“Universal design is the design of products and surroundings in such a way that they can be used by all, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaption, or specialized design”. (Source: T-1249 «Planlegging for alle», brosjyre fra Miljøverndepartementet).