Universal Design Guidelines

                                                                 Disability Advocates Universal Design Guidelines 2.0

Disability Advocates recommends the incorporation of Universal Design/Inclusive Design as the guiding framework for all new construction and major renovations.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) remains landmark civil rights legislation; yet the ADA Accessibility Guidelines are a minimum compliance standard born out of a naturally imperfect legislative and regulatory process.  As such, the ADA is far from being an ideal standard of accessible design nor does it achieve the most inclusive spaces.  By contrast, Universal Design/Inclusive Design encourages the development of spaces, products, and services that are easier for ALL users– both with and without disabilities—to engage with.

Universal Design’s seven guiding principles as first articulated by Ron Mace, AIA, and the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University School of Architecture are:

1). Equitable Use

2). Flexibility in Use

3). Simple and Intuitive Use

4). Perceptible Information

5). Tolerance for Error

6). Low Physical Effort

7). Appropriate Size and Space for Approach and Use

The Universal Design Guidelines which Disability Advocates has developed are here.

Disability Advocates staff and partners have developed this set of guidelines to help communities and their design professionals realize the most inclusive spaces possible.  The guidelines include both a comprehensive list of the Universal Design considerations along with a list of the priorities within each area.  If you have any questions about these Guidelines or have recommendations to make them even more inclusive, do not hesitate to contact Patrick Parkes, our Absolutely Accessible Kent Business Development Coordinator at patrick.p@dakc.us.




 As noted above, Disability Network Michigan is comprised of the state’s fifteen (15) Centers for Independent Living (CILs); Disability Advocates being one of the fifteen CILs.  They are a resource for accessibility education, advocacy, and removing barriers for people with disabilities. The website includes a directory of CIL contact information.



The Great Lakes ADA Center provides information, materials, technical assistance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Topics addressed include non-discrimination requirements in employment, obligations of state and local governments as well as business to ensure that programs, services, and activities are readily accessible to and useable by people with disabilities. 

Great Lakes ADA Center

University of Illinois at Chicago Institute on Disability & Human Development

1640 West Roosevelt Road,

Room 405 Chicago, IL 60608

Voice/TTY: (800) 949-4232 (V/TTY) MICHIGAN



The National Center on Accessibility is a collaborative program of Indiana University and the National Park Service.  It provides information on access for people with disabilities in recreation. 

National Center on Accessibility

501 North Morton Street – Suite 109

Bloomington, IN 47404-3732

Comments: nca@indiana.edu



The Center for Universal Design is a national information, technical assistance, and research center that evaluates, develops, and promotes accessible and universal design in housing, commercial, and public facilities, outdoor environments, and products.

The Center for Universal Design

College of Design

North Carolina State University

Campus Box

8613 Raleigh, NC 27695-8613

Voice: (800) 647-6777



The Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth created this website, which is devoted specifically to the interests, concerns, and needs of Michiganders with disabilities.  The website offers information on services and programs for people with disabilities offered by the state of Michigan as well as other sites of interest. 



The U.S. Access Board is designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as the agency responsible for developing minimum accessibility guidelines to ensure that new construction and alteration of facilities covered by ADA are accessible and useable by people with disabilities.  Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Standards 2010 

The Access Board website provides links to technical assistance for several kinds of projects. 

United States Access Board

1331 F Street, NW, Suite 1000

Washington, DC 20004-1111

Voice: (800) 872-2253

TTY: (800) 993-2822

FAX: (202) 272-0081



Below is a quick reference to general minimum requirements for accessible spaces, clearances, reaches, viewing, and operation.  These are not specific to types of recreation you may be seeking to provide.  Please reference the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design Guidelines for the specific type of recreation to find the specific scoping and technical minimum requirements. 

  • Clear width = 36” minimum for most accessible routes
  • Surfaces = ¼” maximum change, slopes less than 5%, firm and stable
  • Head clearance = 80” high and as wide as the route
  • Clear space = minimum 30” wide by 48” deep located at the element
  • Viewing = clear from 32”-51” height
  • Maneuvering space = 60” by 60” minimum and level, at entries and places for change of direction
  • Transferable height = 17”-19” with transfer supports
  • Knee clearance = 27” high by 30” wide by 25” deep
  • Tabletops, counters, and rail heights = maximum 34” high
  • Reach range = 48” maximum high forward; 15” minimum low on sid