An expanding universe of design
Items created for some can be helpful for all
Picture this: You slip your phone into the side pocket of the hooded sweatshirt you’re wearing … only to have it slide out as soon as you sit down. It’s a common problem wheelchair users experience when transferring in or out of their chairs, but it can happen to anyone. One solution: vertical pockets that keep items in place for everyone—an example of a concept called universal design.
Universal design is the idea that spaces, products, and services should be designed for everyone, regardless of ability or disability, and that designing to accommodate one group helps others as well. It’s often most visible in physical spaces—for example, ramps that accommodate wheelchairs also support people using strollers or hand trucks. But universal design goes much further. Take the hoodie example: It isn’t just theoretical; it’s one of the elements incorporated by Social Surge, a universally designed clothing line co-founded by Meredith Aleigha Wells ’17.