Accessibility has been incorporated in German law for many years and is regulated by DIN standards. It enables seniors, persons with physical disabilities and persons with small children to lead independent lives and aims to compensate for any disadvantages. A building or apartment is considered barrier-free if all premises, including the surrounding area, are accessible and usable without outside help. Wheelchair ramps are a good example of barrier-free living, as they enable wheelchair users to act independently without having to depend on others.
Universal design follows in the footsteps of accessibility, but goes a step further. As the name implies, universal design does not target a specific group of people, but rather aims for solutions that benefit any user, regardless of size, age, gender or physical constitution. Universal spaces and systems are designed to be intuitive and easy to use, ideally without customization. For example, wide doors are designed so that everyone can easily use them – from small children to seniors with bulky walkers.