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:
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).