Universal Design

What is Universal Design?

Universal Design is the idea that a building or space can be built and designed in a way that makes it accessible for a wide range of people. There is no one-size fits all for humans. In the United State one-in-five people has a disability– either physical or mental –that can affect the way they travel through, use or perceive a space. Height, hand dominance, body size and age are all factors that Universal Design takes into consideration during the pre-design, design and construction phases.

Progressive AE is an expert in creating buildings and spaces that meet the principles of Universal Design. We designed and built the Mary Free Bed YMCA, the first building the world to receive certification in Universal Design from the Global Universal Design Commission. When it comes to architecture and design, universal design is helping make buildings and spaces more accessible to a wider range of people.

Principles of Universal Design:

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

Universal Design can apply to:

  • Learning environments
  • Healthy and wellness facilities
  • Hospitals and healthcare
  • Senior Living
  • Urban planning
  • Public and commercial buildings
  • Parks and recreational spaces

Get Started on Your Universal Design Journey:

Progressive AE has joined with the experts at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to assess fitness facilities using the AIMFREE survey. AIMFREE is the Accessibility Instruments Measuring Fitness and Recreation Environments survey. It was created specifically to measure the accessibility of recreation and fitness facilities.

The AIMFREE survey is an opportunity to take a comprehensive look at the true condition of your facility. From the parking lot to the signage, the survey is a complete tool that helps you see your facility from a different perspective. Contact us for more information.

“Best Practices for Inclusive Camps” is out now! It provides a practical take on the inclusion of youth with diverse abilities based on the newly developed Standards for Inclusive Recreation Programs. This book is intended as a resource for camp professionals, and all who work with young people in camps, after-school, and other youth programs making sure no kid is left on the sidelines. Michael Perry, AIA who leads Progressive AE’s Universal Design consulting practice wrote chapter 3 focusing on facilities, equipment, and accessibility.

“Participation by design: Integrating a social ecological approach with
universal design to increase participation and add value for
consumers” – Disability and Health Journal


Statement of Design: Mary Free Bed YMCA

Download our FREE whitepaper on the revolutionary Mary Free Bed YMCA-

The first GUDC-certified Universal Design facility in the world.

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