Universal Design

Universal design is a design philosophy that ensures that products, buildings, environments, programs, services and experiences are innately accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their age, level of ability, cultural background or any other differentiating factors. Universal design distinguishes itself from accessible design by focusing on user-centred design from the earliest stages of a project.

Universal design and the State Disability Plan Inclusive Victoria 2022-2026

Accessible communications and universal design is one of the six systemic reforms outlined in The State Disability Plan, Inclusive Victoria 2022-2026.

Across the Victorian Government, all departments have agreed that over the next four years they will embed the six systemic reforms in their policies, programs and services

This includes a commitment to work across government to embed universal design principles in all elements of the design and delivery of infrastructure

  • adopting universal design principles in the first two years of the plan in parks, sport and recreation, and health infrastructure
  • continuing to build a network of fully accessible public toilets across Victoria to support people with disability to take part in their local community and access recreational venues, as well as embedding their construction in major infrastructure and transport projects. This includes funding local government and not-for-profit agencies to build 18 more Changing Places facilities across Victoria.
  • publicly releasing the whole-of-government Universal design policy and sharing examples of good practice with community, industry and local government.

Whole of Victorian Government Universal Design policy

The purpose of Victoria’s universal design policy is to support Victorian Government departments, agencies and delivery partners to incorporate universal design principles consistently across infrastructure projects. This policy provides guidance on how Victorian Government funded infrastructure can be designed and delivered to advance universal design principles and goals. This includes small to medium sized infrastructure projects that are funded through grants programs or any other funding mechanism.

Co-design and meaningful user engagement are some of the most important aspects to getting universal design right in practice. Elevating the voice of people with disability throughout the project lifecycle leads to shared decision making which translates to more effective services and better outcomes for people.

All new Victorian Government infrastructure projects should demonstrate how their design and construction will align with the seven universal design principles.

The Seven Universal Design Principles

Universal Design Principle


1. Equitable use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. 

2. Flexibility in use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

3. Simple and intuitive use

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the person's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. 

4. Perceptible information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the person, regardless of ambient conditions or the person’s sensory abilities

5. Tolerance for error

The design minimises hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. 

6. Low physical effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. 

7. Size and space for approach and use:

Appropriate size and space are provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the person’s body size, posture, or mobility. 

Latest news

2022 Universal Design Funding Round now open

The Universal Design Grants Funding Round 2022 provides $2.5 million for small and larger grants to eligible organisations to improve the accessibility of buildings and public spaces across Victoria.

The Universal Design Funding Round 2022-2023 aims to improve access via small renovations to existing community facilities which will enable more people, including people with disability and dementia, to participate in community and social activities.

Local, State Government entities (Victorian) and community not-for-profit organisations who manage community facilities and public spaces and are encouraged to apply for one of the two grants streams: 

  • Small grants valued between $10,000 to $100,000 for minor fit outs or upgrades to existing community facilities and public spaces
  • Large grants valued between $100,001 and $500,000 for major upgrades of existing community facilities and public spaces.

The funding round opens on 19 July 2022 and closes 2 September 2022.

Applications must be submitted through smarty grants.

For more information visit the Universal Design funding round web page.

Further Information/Downloads

Funding Round Information Session

An on-line information session will be held

Time: 10.00am – 11.30am

Date: 3 August 2022   Eventbrite registration   Register via Eventbrite for the 2022 Universal Design Funding Round or to find out more about the Universal Design Funding Round 2022 email: changingplaces@dffh.vic.gov.au

Key documents available for download

Accessible formats:


Universal Design resources and links

  • Department of Health

    Victorian Health Building Authority

    In health infrastructure, universal design means designing spaces in the health environment that are functional for the full range of diversity, and that address the physical, sensory and cognitive needs of most people.

    A suite of design guides using universal design principles developed by the Victorian Health Building Authority (VHBA) for different health settings have been created.

    Visit the VHBA design guidelines webpage for a full list of guidelines in aged care, alcohol and other drugs, early parenting centres and mental health.

  • Department of Families, Fairness and Housing

    Changing Places

    Changing Places facilities are larger than standard accessible toilets, with extra features and more space to meet the needs of people with a disability and their carers. Each facility has a height adjustable, adult-sized changing bench, a tracking hoist system, and space for two people either side of a peninsula toilet.

    Changing Places design specifications 2020

  • Department of Education and Training

    Victorian School Building Authority

    The Building Quality Standards Handbook May 2021 sets the minimum quality criteria for all Department of Education and Training capital projects, including new construction, refurbishment and maintenance works. Its purpose is to assist architects and designers to create high-quality designs for school facilities across Victoria.

    All architects, designers and project consultants engaged by the VSBA for new schools, school upgrades, and major maintenance projects, must demonstrate how the seven universal design principles have been realised in a project design.

  • Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

    Sport and Recreation Victoria

    Design for everybody guide a practical resource that uses the principles of Universal Design to assist the planning, design and development of inclusive sport and recreation facilities.