Purpose and Goals

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I. Purpose

To promote the understanding and use of Universal Design (“UD”) in the design and development of buildings, products, and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation, retrofitting, or specialized design.

II. Role and Responsibilities

The Commission will:

  1. facilitate through public education the awareness, understanding, and application of UD principles to products and the built environment;
  2. lead a voluntary consensus standards development process to provide an objective system of measurement to evaluate the level of adoption of UD standards in the built environment;
  3. promote the adoption and use of newly developed UD standards across environments;
  4. educate designers, developers, leaders, governments, and end users of the benefits of application of UD standards to the built environment and products;
  5. measure, through the application of a rating system, the level of adoption of UD standards;
  6. certify buildings, commercial and residential development, and products that meet UD standards;
  7. conduct training and offer technical assistance to designers, developers, lenders, governments and end users to understand and apply UD standards to improve product and built environment design;
  8. certify professionals to be qualified in UD and in UD building and product certification;
  9. conduct research to improve current and create new knowledge about the adoption and
  10. conduct any other activities to fulfill and communicate the mission of the Global Universal Design Commission.

III. Collaboration

The GUDC will encourage participation by individuals, organizations and governments to learn more about UD and accelerate interest, investment, and adoption. The Commission Board of Directors has established membership categories that seek to directly involve universities, governments, developers, building owners, disability organizations, financial institutions, and other interested parties.

IV. Universal Design Consensus Standards

The practice of Universal Design gives attention to these goals:
Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012

  • Body fit – accommodating a wide a range of body sizes and abilities
  • Comfort – keeping demands within desirable limits of body function and perception
  • Awareness – ensuring that critical information for use is easily perceived
  • Understanding – making methods of operation and use intuitive, clear and unambiguous
  • Wellness – contributing to health promotion, avoidance of disease and  protection from hazards
  • Social integration – treating all groups with dignity and respect
  • Personalization – incorporating opportunities for choice and the expression of individual preferences
  • Appropriateness – respecting and reinforcing cultural values and the social and environmental context of any design project.

The practice of universal design is contextual. There are no absolute levels of performance since each project context determines what can be achieved. The Universal Design Consensus Standards will foster a continuing process of improvement by setting goals and identifying good practice approaches
to meet those goals.

Standards will initially be developed for buildings and facilities. The first set will focus on commercial buildings and facilities. Later initiatives will expand to educational, residential, health, civic and other building and facility types. Beyond the built environment, GUDC will also develop initiatives in product design and services.

The Consensus Standards developed by the Commission for buildings will generally have three categories of standards: (1) development process, (2) design features, and (3) operation and use. Each set of building standards will have several subsections within each of these categories.

The Universal Design Consensus Standards will be developed to meet three basic universal design goals: (1) usability, (2) safety, and (3) health. The standards and rating system will be developed through an open consensus process involving a wide range of stakeholders. Certification will be based on meeting performance goals through a variety of strategies, and the rating system will also be designed to reduce the burden of the certification process.

Accreditation will have a pre-requisite – compliance with all applicable accessibility, health and safety codes. Without evidence of compliance, certification cannot be obtained.

V. Conclusion

The Universal Design Consensus Standards to be developed by GUDC will be voluntary guidance standards that can be adopted to incorporate UD principles into buildings, products and services. The intent is that the UD Consensus Standards will complement existing accessibility standards and regulations by identifying and encouraging the incorporation of features that increase usability, safety and health for a diverse end user population.

GUDC logo

Global Universal Design Commission

Global Universal Design Commission, Inc., (GUDC) a not-for-profit corporation, was established to develop Universal Design (UD) standards for buildings, products and services.




Physical Address

Global Universal Design Commission, Inc. (GUDC)
Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
950 Irving Avenue
Dineen Hall, Suite 446
Syracuse, New York 13244-2130