Universal design in Japan


Do you know about 'Universal Design (UD)'? graph of japanese statisticsUniversal design, a term coined by Ron Mace, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, has been embraced by many Japanese companies. To see how awareness of it is spreading throughout Japan, this survey from MyVoice investigated what people thought of Universal Design, or UD as it is often abbreviated to.


Over the first five days of August 2008 15,045 members of the MyVoice internet community successfully completed a members-only online questionnaire. 54% of the sample were female, 1% in their teens, 15% in their twenties, 37% in their thirties, 29% in their forties, and 18% in their fifties.

In Q4, the lack of awareness of UD when selecting products is not necessarily a bad thing, as good UD should ideally be invisible. On many Panasonic products, for instance, the on button is a large yellow one with a black legend, a colour scheme which has been shown to be the most visible to people with cataracts or other vision problems, and the largeness makes it easier to find and push. Without knowledge of UD, the average able-bodied user perhaps just thinks it’s clearly marked, without considering the accessibility issues.

Research results

Q1: Do you know the term “Universal Design (UD)”? (Sample size=15,045)

Know the details 44.9%
Just heard the term 38.0%
Don’t know it 17.1%

Since the survey was first conducted in November 2001 the awareness of the details has steadily climbed from 22.0% and ignorance dropped from 43.9%.

Q2: Universal Design is a product, service, building, space, etc designed so that as many as possible people can use it, regardless of able-bodied or handicapped, age, sex, nationality or race. Did you know that? (Sample size=15,045)

Knew it in details 13.2%
Knew it to some degree 41.1%
Didn’t know much 18.2%
Knew almost nothing 10.3%
First time I heard of it 16.9%
No answer 0.4%

Q3: Have you used any of the Universal Design aspects of the following items? (Sample size=15,045, multiple answer)

Transport-related 23.5%
Daily products, accessories 20.1%
Facilities, services 19.2%
Furniture, home fitments 12.3%
Vending machines 10.8%
Electrical products 9.7%
Information devices 5.6%
Food, drink 4.8%
Information 3.6%
Clothes 2.8%
Other 1.4%
Don’t know 54.5%
No answer 0.4%

Q4: When purchasing products, using services, etc, are you aware of Universal Design? (Sample size=15,045)

Very aware 0.9%
Aware to some extent 8.4%
Not really aware 38.5%
Not aware at all 51.2%
No answer 1.1%

Q5: In which field do you think Universal Design be most promoted? (Sample size=15,045)

Transport-related 23.8%
Facilities, services 16.0%
Daily products, accessories 14.0%
Furniture, home fitments 9.5%
Electrical products 5.7%
Information devices 3.3%
Information 2.6%
Food, drink 1.7%
Clothes 1.1%
Vending machines 1.0%
Other 0.5%
Nothing in particular 20.5%
No answer 0.3%
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