Universal design can be considered an approach to designing environments and products that takes into consideration the changes experienced by everyone throughout their lifetime. Rather than focus on adapting things for an individual at a later time, an accessible environment is created from the beginning.
When designers apply universal design principles, their products and services meet the needs of potential users with a wide variety of characteristics. Disability is just one of many characteristics that an individual might possess. For example, one person could be five feet four inches tall, female, forty years old, a poor reader, and deaf. All of these characteristics, including her deafness, should be considered when developing a product or service she might use.
Making a product or service accessible to people with disabilities often benefits others. For example, sidewalk curb cuts, designed to make sidewalks and streets accessible to those using wheelchairs, are today more often used by kids on skateboards, parents with baby strollers, and delivery staff with rolling carts. "Good Grips," kitchen products with wide, large grips by a company called Oxo, were originally designed for individuals who lack fine finger dexterity, but also benefit those who also have arthritis, large hands, and even those of us without special needs who find these products more comfortable to use. Closed-captioned television in airports and restaurants benefit people who cannot hear the audio because of a noisy environment as well as those who are deaf.