Universal Design (UD) aims to provide designed environments that allow users to fully participate in all kinds of activities. Especially, the design of Sport and Leisure buildings should support and encourage the participation of mobility and sensory impaired people in any physical and social activity. Yet, the variety of physical and social users’ needs calls for different approaches to investigate, analyze and assess how the environment fulfills users’ needs and expectations.
This paper presents a new analytical model that: a) investigates how people with mobility, visual, and hearing impairments interact with specific architectural features; b) links the examined user-environment interaction with the user’s personal assessment of the spatial experience.
The study employs the literature review of the existing analytical models, which are based on the concept of user-environment interaction and framed around empirically deducted basic human needs. These models address the issue of user-environment fit by focusing on the identification of environmental barriers. Also, some of these models are too descriptive and cannot inform the practice in creative design processes.
The proposed analytical model, which is built upon the theoretical concepts of affordances and usability, aims to develop a qualitative evaluation method for identifying environmental facilitators by linking the design of architectural characteristics with the influenced perception of users of the physical and social aspects of the built environment.
The model consists of three groups of elements: (1) users’ physical abilities; (2) architectural features and (3) usability criteria. The inter-relations of each element across the groups develop the narrating scenarios that can be investigated from the user’s perspective.
This new model does not only advance the understanding of the spatial experiences of persons with mobility and sensory impairments but also offers new insights for exploring UD solutions by identifying the architectural features that enlarge the spectrum of possible user-environment interactions.