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The Trend Toward Universal Design

Tolis Demertzis, Regional Director, World Dryer

As a facility manager, you are probably very familiar with the general requirements for building accessibility. We’ve had accessibility laws and regulations in the US for some time now, such as the Architectural Barriers Act (1968), Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Fair Housing Act Amendments (1988) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990).

However, in recent years there has been a movement to think beyond the minimum requirements of accessibility in building. Today, many designers strive to create a “universal design” for products and environments so that they are “usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

According to the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Whole Building Design Guide, the idea behind universal design is to “make life easier, healthier and friendlier for all.” Achieving this goal will mean that all visitors to your building should be able to enjoy your building in the same way. One of the key considerations of universal design is the idea that a building should adapt to its visitors instead of visitors having to adapt to the building.

These principles are a guide for architects, designers, engineers and facility managers, and can be applied to both products and facilities. A simple way to evaluate the extent to which your building reflects universal design is by having a diverse group of users evaluate your building on an ongoing basis. There tend to be hindrances to accommodating every visitor that can be easily remedied after feedback is solicited.  After these requests have been identified, processes should be developed to close accessibility and usability gaps.

Why not apply universal design principles to your facilities restrooms? As we’ve discussed in the World Dryer Executive White Paper, visitors’ experiences in your restrooms have a strong impact on their impressions of both your building and your business.

World Dryer can help make your restroom more inclusive with VERDEdri – a high speed hand dryer that is ADA compliant without a recess kit. VERDEdri can benefit all of your restrooms’ users with its simple and automatic drying function. VERDEdri’s adjustable two-speed motor controls and universal voltage features make it a good fit for any restroom environment.

If you would like to explore more universal design resources a good place to visit is DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology).

Tolis Demertzis is regional director for Bensenville, Ill.–based World Dryer (www.worlddryer.com), a leading global manufacturer of hand dryers for more than 50 years. He can be reached at TDemertzis@worlddryer.com.