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CoastLine: Universal Design – A Step Beyond Accessibility

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Advocates for Universal Design emphasize the fact that most people will move around the ability spectrum over the course of their lives.

When you think of an accessible space, you might picture a ramp to the side door of a building, big metal grab bars next to a toilet, or a button with a wheelchair insignia that automatically opens doors.  But a concept called Universal Design is gaining traction. It’s an idea that launched in the 1970s and was advanced by Ronald L. Mace, an architect, product designer, and educator whose design philosophy was based on a more usable world.  This was an evolution of the 1950s and 60s idea of “access”.  Mace envisioned products and a built environment that would serve the needs of people who landed anywhere on the ability spectrum. 

There is a non-profit organization named after him in Asheville:  theR. L. Mace Universal Design Institutewhich promotes the concept and practice of universal design.  


Richard Duncan, Founder and Executive Director, R.L. Mace Universal Design Institute

Anne Glass, Professor in the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington.  She’s also the Coordinator of the Gerontology program there. 

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.