Bernard Isaacs, Founding Director of the Birmingham Centre for Applied Gerontology
Design for the young and you exclude the old; design for the old and you include the young.
Large numbers of people are finding it difficult to interact with the modern world; they are adversely affected by decisions made during the specification and design process of products and services. This 'design exclusion' takes several forms: older and disabled people suffer from it; so do economically vulnerable groups and those affected by changing technologies and work practices.
The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.i
Images: © 2006 OXO International, Ltd. All rights reserved.
OXO, an American consumer products company, was founded in 1990 on the philosophy of universal design. For OXO, the principles of universal design mean a salad spinner that can be used with one hand; liquid measuring cups that can be read from above without bending over; a toilet brush that bends to reach out of way places; a backlit oven thermometer that can be read easily through the window of an oven door; kettles with whistle lids that open automatically when tipped to pour; and tools with pressure-absorbing, non-slip handles that make them more efficient. Between 1991 and 2002, OXO's annual growth rate in sales was more than 35 percent.
Within 30 years nearly, half of the population of Western Europe will be over 50 years old.ii The challenge is to use design as a tool to deliver social and political expectations of equality and inclusion.The more effectively this can be achieved, the more older and disabled people will be encouraged to spend the now considerable wealth they control on the goods and services that deliver independence and quality of life - a virtuous circle that will benefit business and society.