Airport signage board stating "Metro" with an exit sign pointing to the right with a person running followed by a person using a wheelchair, moving in the same style as the running person. On the left of the signage board is another exit sign, but this one only has the running person moving to the left. The sign shows that an accessible exit path is to the right, whilst the non-accessible exit path is to the left.

Universal Design Is Not a Synonym for Compliance with Access Standards

According to the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland, the term Universal Design has been used incorrectly as a synonym for compliance with accessibility design standards.[1]

They argue the two areas differ greatly, whereas equal rights and disability legislation prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, accessibility design standards provide a minimum level of compliance with applicable legislation. They raise two key factors when considering Universal Design:

  • It is not just applicable to the needs of people with disabilities, but everyone, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.
  • Universal Design is not a list of specifications; but an approach to design that considers the varied abilities of users.

Elderly person in wheelchair being pushed up ramp at tourist Skytree observation tower in TokyoIn terms of universal design and evacuation planning, there are a number of measures that can be implemented to ensure a building is safe for all occupants, not only when the building is being used in its normal state, but when there’s an emergency and a need for evacuation.

[1] National Disability Authority,, viewed 20 August 2015

Buildings need exit and emergency signs to identify parts of the accessible means of egress. An Accessible Exit Sign Project Initiative.

%d bloggers like this: