Ron Mace, an architect and wheelchair user who coined the term "universal design" in the early '70s, summed up its philosophy: "Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."

These days, Arvid Osterberg, professor of architecture at Iowa State University's College of Design, prefers to call the concept "design for all people," and teaches a course by that name.

For Osterberg, good design, "inclusive design," necessarily includes features that make it accessible and comfortable, not just for those who use wheelchairs or who have other physical challenges, but for the child with muscular dystrophy, the world-class triathlete and everyone in between. Another term used for this design approach is "visitability."

"Unfortunately, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) only applies to public spaces, not private homes.

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