In 1998 Molly Follette Story, James Mueller and Roland Mace published the book The Universal Design File; that can be considered the result of a long way, started by Mace in 1985, towards a design approach based on the principles of Universal Design. In 2010 the Centre for Active Design publishes the Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design.
Between these two milestones, this article offers some ideas about the evolution of the universal approach to design.
Assuming that Universal Design approach can present limits, this article aims to reflect on the relationship between universal and particular in developing a theoretical approach to architecture and design, supporting the idea that the wide gray area of the population who need specific access solutions can find answers to their needs only through successive adjustments, time by time plugged on universal solutions. This implies a process of requirement-based retrofitting of existing spaces and goods, to get qualities or perfecting performances otherwise inadequate.
From this perspective the project for accessibility should be seen as a never ending process, and not a fix and final product, and Universal Design should be considered as a methodological approach ideally tending towards accessibility as a goal.
Having this in mind, the article explores the issues related to how to blend universal and particular in a human centred design strategy, how to combine design actions and awareness by the users to allow an effective mutual adaptation between people and their living environment.
The article aims to be further food for thought regarding research to be implemented in future works.
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