Where do I start with Universal Design??

Our last blog looked at one feature of the Universal Design Guidelines, here we offer an overall breakdown to make it much easier for you to navigate this wonderful, but extensive document!

Try to save yourself money and time with the resources already available free of charge through the Aim website. 

Someone has done all the hard work for you and all you have to do is read it. The work that has been undertaken in the Universal Design Guidelines takes the mystery out of universal design for providers. It is a step by step guide as to the best way to design your service if you are upgrading, building, or lucky enough to have a grant to spend. 

This has been launched free of charge on the AIM website https://aim.gov.ie/aim-supports/universal-design-guidelines/, you can peruse at your leisure and decide the pieces you might need to access. Here is a useful guide to help you decide which sections you need to look into in more detail.

The Universal Design Guidelines for Early Learning and Care Settings can be accessed via the links below, or directly on the AIM website in downloadable chunks:

Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings – Introduction

This includes a very user friendly ‘frequently used acronyms and key terms’ section.

The introduction also sets out the wider context for ELC settings in Ireland and the benefits of UD (there are lots to choose from, including sustainable design to improve comfort and energy efficiency)

In many ways UD is first and foremost good design, but it also provides future-proofed ELC settings that are cost-effective, flexible and adaptable into the future.

Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings Section 1 – Site Location, Approach and Design

Simple ideas can make a huge difference to including your local community.  Small public spaces in front of the settings can provide a social area for people entering and leaving the service some simple, inclusive ideas that you may not have thought about - we most certainly recommend giving this section a read. 


Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings Section 2 – Entering and Moving about the Early Learning and Care Setting

Points to consider if designing or revamping your reception area:

Again, simple design ideas that may save you time and money in the future. 


Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings Section 3 – Key Internal and External Spaces

One feature I am seeing more and more often now in services is a shared central area that is suitable for mixed ages and multi-purpose - if you get this design feature correct this really can be a very useful space and a social space for families and friends to share.  Try to remember when decorating this space that changes in floor colour or tone may cause issues for some people with sensory, physical or cognitive difficulties. 

Covered outdoor spaces offering a transitional space where sand and water play can take place, as well as providing shelter and canopy ideas are really making a difference to some early years services to help this transition. 


Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings Section 4 – Elements and Systems

There are really useful tips as to how to make features safely.  A tree branch hanging from the ceiling which can be used for a multitude of reasons can be made safe, for a reasonable price by using a fire retardant, clear intumescent paint or similar.  There are links throughout this section to the Tusla quality regulatory framework which takes all the hard work out of design for us. 


Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings – Self Audit Tool for ELC Settings

Link to this really useful tool which you could use prior to spending any grant received or deciding how to best spend the limited resources you may have access to. 


Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings – Appendices, Case Studies and Design Brief

These case studies are really well worth checking out as they cover urban, rural, small, large those with big pockets and those with smaller pockets. 

Universal Design Guidelines for ELC Settings – Literature Review

The important part, recognising the hard work those who designed this book put in, making it all so much easier for us!