The concepts of accessibility and universal design extend beyond our physical environment to our experiences using any kind of system or technology.
“Usability” is a term generally used when thinking about whether someone is able to complete the goal or task at hand. The term “user experience” expands upon this to take into consideration the entire interactive experience the user has while attempting to complete the goal or task.
Universal design encompasses both concepts, by making products and services more usable as well as providing a better user experience, paving a human-friendly way to the future.
While accessibility metrics provide a strong backbone for universal design, practitioners must have an overall belief in including all of our users in our designs in order to fully embrace and incorporate the philosophy. By practicing empathy and taking actionable steps towards inclusivity, we build better, stronger products and become more thoughtful, considerate designers.
There’s more to it than merely thinking about general needs and abilities. Universal design is based on principles, and has guidelines and metrics that allow organizations to be tested and rated for certain levels of accessibility. It’s this sort of system that moves universal design from an idea into a concrete subset of UX.