Universal design : designing products that all individuals can use



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In today's world there is a need for products and services that are accessible to all individuals. Universal Design is the concept that products and environments should be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialization. There is a growing need for such products. However, many products are not accessible to all potential customers, arguably due to a lack of experience, design tools, and engineering methods for creating universally designed products. This research compares paired products to determine the differences between "Universal Design (UD)" and "Standard" Products. For each pair of products, a functional model and activity diagram were developed and analyzed. For each product pair, the identified differences in the products were recorded in a Universal Design differences database. Through systematic analysis of the Universal Design differences database and other research in Universal Design, a set of three Handheld Universal Design Tools was created. The toolset consists of the Handheld Universal Design Checklist, The Handheld Universal Design Guidelines, and the Handheld Universal Design Matrix. These three tools are designed to be used in the concept generation phase of product design or redesign. The Handheld Universal Design Tools were evaluated using a human subjects experiment. Control and test groups were asked to generate concepts for redesigning a product. The metrics of quality, universality, laterality, senior usability and inclusivity were used to evaluate the design concepts. The results of the study suggest that Handheld Universal Design Tools assist engineers in generating design concepts appropriate for Universally Designed products. As a part of the research, Universal Design was presented to first year mechanical engineering students with pre- and post- surveys on the students' perceptions of engineering. Subsequent analysis of the surveys indicated that exposure to Universal Design affects students' perceptions of engineers' overall role in society and their capacity to help others. The Handheld Universal Design Checklist, Guidelines and Matrix represent an initial step to provide engineers with tools to create Universally Designed products.