Universal Design and Teams

Universal Design and Teams

Organize Your Design Team for Success

Any team designing a new product, service, or solution to a problem needs to consider Universal Design (UD). It will make the outcome better and more robust. If you are a team leader, you want to ensure that whatever your team creates is usable by as many people as possible.

How you organize your team, and their work will impact your success as you move forward with your design. With team organization in mind, you will want to apply Universal Design principles and be as inclusive as possible. You want to create an environment where all team members feel included and contribute to the outcome.

Another example of Universal Design and teams is having flexible management operations. Management structures using teams, with a designated leader, who focuses on a given issue and encourages employee collaboration have produced a more satisfying work environment for employees and more innovative products and services to meet their customers’ needs.

Of course, the reverse is also true and perhaps far too common. Suppose management does not emphasize the value and importance of Universal Design when forming a team. In that case, the team may suffer and so may the outcome from the perspective of Universal Design.

There was an interesting study that reveals how team members view the commitment to Universal Design by management.

The target population for the study was people who develop software as a team member. The survey contained questions regarding knowledge about UD, attitude towards UD, and how their internal processes incorporate UD. In total, there were 89 who complete the questionnaire included in the survey. Incomplete submissions were omitted from the results. Most of the participants were recruited by team leaders and project owners. A total of 50 participants were recruited in this manner. Another 27 people were recruited from a consultancy company. The rest were recruited on Facebook from a special group for UD in ICT. All answers to the questions were collected through Google Forms, and all answers were submitted anonymously.

A key question provides insights into how team members feel about management’s commitment to Universal Design.

The participants were asked:

“How is universal design anchored by the management in your project?”

The researchers received feedback from some participants that the answer to this question should have had an” unknown” option and that they selected answer number four since they did not know. The researchers felt an argument could have been made that if a participant is unaware of the commitment of UD in their projects, it demonstrates that it is poorly anchored by management.


Universal Design and Teams

Another critical question shines a light on the question of responsibility.

Participants were asked:

“Who is responsible for ensuring UD in your projects?”

The participants could select among four options:

1) Everybody shares the responsibility

2) One person has the responsibility

3) Multiple persons share the workload, but one person is responsible

4) Nobody has the responsibility.

The next figure shows that over 1/3 of all the participants said that nobody has the responsibility. This is yet another indication that many software design teams could benefit from team development and organization when the desired outcome is to increase the usability of the software they produce. 

Universal Design Responsibility

Universal Design and Your Workforce

Why should you incorporate Universal Design principles into the work environment, particularly as it relates to teams? We think the answer is clear.

Designing inclusive workplace environments, policies, and practices that consider employees of all abilities helps employers attract and retain a competitive workforce. What’s more, adopting a UD approach can benefit existing staff, improve overall productivity and morale, and provide an inclusive business environment for employees.

As your teams apply UD to solutions for your clients, your services, and your products, you will be servicing a more diverse customer base. Your organization will attract customers with more varied backgrounds, needs, and abilities — ultimately resulting in increased profitability and success. 

Below is a short animated video produced by Microsoft Corporation on a team approach using Universal Design and Inclusive principles. It is a fun video!