What Is Universal Design?

Universal Design Home Windows

A core aspect of Earthwise Windows lies in its adherence to Universal Design principles. Universal Design isn’t a term that is common to the average person, yet its impact has fundamentally changed how our homes are built. You may be wondering “What’s Universal Design?”

Universal Design pertains to building design that’s usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

This standard of design is important for the accessibility of all people, particularly those with disabilities or limited ability of any sort. In this post, we’ll unpack Universal Design, and what it means for your home windows. 

Ronald Mace Created the Concept of Universal Design

To understand Universal Design is to understand the history behind it, and the man who coined the term. 

Ronald Mace was born in 1940 and lived a healthy childhood until he contracted polio at the age of nine and had to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His personal experience opened him up to the world of people with disabilities, and the challenges they faced every day. In college, his wheelchair was unable to fit through certain doorways, and he had to be carried to class in some instances.1

After graduating from North Carolina State University's School of Design, he worked as an architect. A few years after his career began, Ronald became an advocate for accessibility in building design. This is what led to the creation of the concept of Universal Design, buildings that can be accessed by as many people as possible, no matter their ability. 

Ronald Mace’s advocacy led to the first accessibility-focused building code getting passed in North Carolina. This served as a model for other states and played a crucial role in passing federal legislation that prohibited disability discrimination in buildings.2

The Principles of Universal Design

Because of Ronald Mace’s impact, Universal Design is implemented everywhere. It is important to note that Universal Design is not just for people with disabilities, but it is meant to be used by everyone. Here are the 7 principles of Universal Design3:

  1. Equitable Use: The design is useful for everyone with varying abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design provides different choices for use and access.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use: The design is easy to understand and use, and isn’t unnecessarily complicated.
  4. Perceptible Information: The design is able to communicate necessary information and can accommodate diverse abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards or accidents.
  6. Low Physical Effort: The use of this design doesn’t cause fatigue to the user or require strenuous activity to use.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate spacing is provided for access and use of the design. 

How Universal Design Is Implemented in Doors and Windows

Universal Design seeks to allow accessibility and ease of use for all people. Because of this, practical features that adhere to Universal Design can be implemented into both windows and doors. Examples of these are low floor threshold height, hardware that differs in color, and locks or handles put at an accessible height. 

Aside from the ease-of-use Earthwise windows are already built with, they’re able to be customized for any homeowner to best suit their ability level. If you’re interested in upgrading your windows to energy-efficient vinyl windows made for your local climate, get in touch with an Earthwise specialist today.


  1. Woodward, Stephanie. “Ronald Mace and His Impact on Universal Design.” Center for Disability Rights, cdrnys.org/blog/advocacy/ronald-mace-and-his-impact-on-universal-design/. Accessed 11 Aug. 2023. 
  2. “Ronald Mace.” Wikipedia, 28 Feb. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Mace. 
  3. “The 7 Principles.” Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/The-7-Principles/. Accessed 11 Aug. 2023. 

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