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 Grants Funding Round outcome The 2022 Universal Design Grants Funding Round closed on 2 September 2022.

Twenty seven organisations will receive universal design grants to help ensure programs and services are accessible to as many people as possible inclusive of age, disability, gender identity, culture and language.

The grants, totalling $2.4 million, will support both small and large-scale improvement to facilities.

The grants were allocated in two grant streams (small and large).

There are six organisations receiving large grants of $100,001 to $500,000 for major upgrades and 21 organisations receiving smaller grants of $10,000 to $100,000 for minor fit outs or upgrades. 

Grant organisation Project name Proposed location
Yarra City Council CSCC Southern Entry Upgrade Eddy Ct
Abbotsford VIC 3067
Ballarat Group Training Barkly Square Accessibility Plan 25 Barkly St
Ballarat East VIC 3350
Chiltern Neighbourhood House Chiltern Neighbourhood House Dementia-friendly and Sensory Garden 11 Main St
Chiltern VIC 3683
Camperdown Pastoral and Agricultural Society ACCESS a LOO 1 Errey St,
Camperdown VIC 3260
ACMI ACMI’s Universal Design Upgrades Federation Square, Flinders Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000
Remembrance Parks Central Victoria An Accessible Memorial Centre 5 Victoria St
Eaglehawk VIC 3556
Alpine Shire Council Myrtleford Memorial Hall Revival - Universal Design 154-156 Myrtle St
Myrtleford VIC 3737
City of Port Phillip Powered wheelchair storage facility Jacka Blvd
St Kilda VIC 3182
Indigo Shire Council Rutherglen Maternal and Child Health Centre and Youth Centre Universal Access Project 150 High St
Rutherglen VIC 3685
Apollo Bay & District Historical Society Incorporated New covered entrance ramp and disabled access 6250 Great Ocean Rd
Apollo Bay VIC 3233
Avenel Jubilee Park Committee of Management Avenel Community Hub all abilities project 23 Queen St
Avenel VIC 3664
Waranga Boat Club Inc Waranga Boat Club Clubhouse Access Improvement 1080 Rushworth-Tatura Rd
Waranga Shores VIC 3612
Indigo Shire Council Chiltern Senior Citizens Clubrooms Universal Access Improvements 84 Conness St
Chiltern VIC 3683
Orwil Street Community House Acoustic panels for Orwil Street 16 Orwil St
Frankston VIC 3199
Bass Coast Shire Council Rhyll Mechanics Hall Improvement Project 41-53 Reid St
Rhyll VIC 3923
Warracknabeal Band and Scout Hall Committee Warracknabeal band and Scout Hall Amenities Upgrade Project 45 Devereux St
Warracknabeal VIC 3393
Indigo Shire Council Rutherglen Senior Citizens Clubrooms Universal Access Project 12 Douglas St
Rutherglen VIC 3685
Beaconsfield Officer Scouts Group Supporting ASD youth with sensory issues 20 Starling Rd
Officer VIC 3809
Cardinia Shire Council Access Upgrade Program: Beaconsfield Officer Scouts 20 Starling Rd
Officer VIC 3809
Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority Anglesea Accessible Beaches Upgrade 78 Great Ocean Rd
Anglesea VIC 3230
Koorie Heritage Trust Inc Koorie Heritage Trust First Nations signage upgrade L3 Yarra Building, Federation Square
Cnr Swanston and Flinders Streets
Melbourne Vic 3000
Queenscliffe Maritime Museum Incorporated Building an accessible ramp to experience museum exhibit Vessel Mavis III 2 Wharf St
Queenscliff VIC 3225
Collingwood Yards Universal design in public spaces at Collingwood Yards arts precinct 35 Johnston St
Collingwood VIC 3066
Nillumbik Shire Council Alistair Knox Park 829 Main Rd
Eltham VIC 3095
Campaspe Shire Council Victoria Park Boat Ramp Universal Access Project Scenic Dr
Echuca VIC 3564
Moonee Valley City Council Incinerator Gallery Accessible Lift 180 Holmes Rd
Aberfeldie VIC 3040
Phillip Island Nature Parks Pyramid Rock Toilet Renewal Pyramid Rock Rd
Ventnor VIC 3922

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.