Is Universal Design sustainable?

The goal of making the world a better place as a result of your actions means that we should question all activities against this high tide mark.

In my spare time, I have worked over the last 10 years on the Assurance panel of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

The panel provides an independent review of an accreditation process for businesses and destinations and by doing so it promotes and manages global standards for sustainable travel and tourism. The criteria cover 4 key areas, sustainable management, sociocultural impacts, cultural impacts, and environmental impacts. Sustainability is much more than just using green processes, but that is a good starting point.

Over those 10 years I have reviewed dozens of different systems that operate across the globe and whilst unique to that place, they all have goals to minimise impacts in the key areas and where feasible improve outcomes based on measurable data and robust processes.

So where and how does Universal Design(UD) fit in?

As a philosophy UD is about reducing rework, build it once and build it right. Socially it supports goals of inclusion and reduces the unplanned consequences of ableism. Environmentally there is less material wastage taken over the life of the asset and this aspect is recognised by a number of building companies and architectural designers who incorporate UD with their general approach to a green build.

It is interesting that we find strong support for “Fairtrade certification”, which is primarily about providing a more equitable return to the producers of the product and enabling them to achieve greater social and environmental performance. The Fairtrade process that protects the people who produce went mainstream about 10 years ago and I’m sure many of you now only purchase Fairtrade products.
What is interesting is that Fairtrade is a formal certification system aimed at stopping the exploitation of people, and on another level, UD is about treating everyone the same by enabling us all to go through the same front door and to all have equitable and similar experiences.

I am not suggesting that the UD certification systems are in any way the same as the globally recognised systems about sustainability. The measurement approach and structure is entirely different, however, both have a similar end goal in mind, making life better for all people in the future.

As always please feel free to contact me on as we promote Universal Design to help everyone live the life they want.


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