Universal design

[Image description: A birds eye picture of a playground. The playground is accessible for children of all abilities.]

Universal design is the concept of designing buildings, products and environments to be inherently accessible and usable by all people. It’s a tricky task. In trying to fix a problem for one, another arises for others but it can be done and the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, California is an impressive example.

The Ed Roberts Campus was universally designed to make life within it’s walls as easy as possible for everyone. The building was constructed in memory of the late Ed Roberts. Ed Roberts was a leader in disability rights in the US and internationally. He laid important groundwork for disability rights and his hard work is present in daily life both in Berkeley and throughout California.

On my recent visit I was lucky enough to have a local who has been involved with the campus for some time to show me around. I’m so glad I had them. There are many crucial elements that I would have missed otherwise. For example the water feature at the far wall of the campus is much more than a relaxation tool, it is a way for blind people or people with vision impairment to orientate themselves in the space. Another exciting feature is that every door and elevator have large buttons at foot level so people who use wheelchairs or who find it easier to use their feet to push the button, can.

The campus is used as a hub for disability services and is currently fully leased. There is everything from computing for over 60’s to integrative yoga classes. On the ground floor is a daycare where parents attending classes or doing anything else at the campus can leave the kids. The daycare is of course, universally designed.

One of the many goals of the designers, architects and developers involved in creating this amazing campus was to avoid any type of medical atmosphere and they have certainly achieved that. If you were to enter the building with no knowledge of it’s development or history you would think you had entered a museum or art gallery. I would highly recommend a visit if ever you’re in the area, everyone can take something away from experiencing this space. Universally designed spaces and products are the future and it is so inspiring to see in action!

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