RERC-UD 2015-2020

The RERC on universal design and the Built Environment will uses a Knowledge-To-Action Model to advance accessibility and universal design (UD) in the four domains of the built environment: 1) commercial and public buildings, (2) housing, (3) community infrastructure, and (4) transportation. The RERC activities address key needs for knowledge and demonstrate the value of evidence-based practice through improved building regulations and adoption of voluntary UD standards. Strategically important research, development, training, and dissemination activities integrate accessibility and UD goals with the generally accepted models, methods, and metrics in the building and product development industries. Short, intermediate, and long-term outcomes will improve physical access, health, and social participation for people with disabilities while also being beneficial for the broader population of users of the built environment.

Research Projects

people walking along elmwood ave sidewalk in Buffalo, New York

Effectiveness of Universal Design in Practice

Project Leads: Jordana Maisel, PhD, Brittany Perez, OTD, OTR/L, Sue Weidemann, PhD

This project examines the effectiveness of universal design (UD) in practice across four domains of the built environment: (1) commercial and public buildings, (2) housing, (3) community infrastructure, and (4) transportation. It utilizes a multi-method approach to document, evaluate, and demonstrate the impact of UD on various usability, performance, and participation outcomes. Findings will be used to inform UD Standards (DV1), evaluate a UD certification website (DV1), and increase UD implementation in built environments.

closeup of a mobile wayfinding map with a specific route marked

Targeted Human Factors Research

Project Leads: James Lenker, PhD, OTR/L, Tilak Dutta, PhD, Heamchand Subryan, MFA, MArch

This project studies critical accessibility, safety, and usability issues for people with impairments across multiple domains of the built environment. The findings from this project will provide information to guide recommendations for improved accessibility and building standards (DV1) and develop guidelines and reference designs to inform future product development and usability testing (DV2).

Development Projects

Tools for Accessibility and Universal Design Standards

Project Leads: Edward Steinfeld, ArchD and Clive D’Souza, PhD

This project is developing new tools to improve and implementing new standards for accessibility, usability, health, and safety. Subprojects are: (1) developing and demonstrating an interactive web-based application to support design and standards development, and (2) developing new solutions and a software interface for implementing a certification program on universal design (UD). The solutions and tools address critical needs for adoption of improved UD standards and accessibility regulations.

closeup of a wheelchair

Innovative Product Development

Project Coordinator: Edward Steinfeld, ArchD, AIA

This project is developing example products through a series of creative partnerships. In each partnership, the RERC is working collaboratively to help develop and evaluate an innovative product prototype, move a prototype to commercialization, or scale-up production. The project also puts the Need to Knowledge (NtK) model into practice and, through these experiences, provides case studies on the model’s effectiveness in translating knowledge to successful product development in universal design (UD). Partnerships are balances across the 4 domains of the built environment. (Cold Weather Tactile Warnings | Stock Plans for UD Houses | Touch Models | Smart Sign System |

blind individual participating in a usability study

Training and Dissemination

person accessing our UD education online course

Project Leads: Korydon Smith, EdD, MArch, Brittany Perez OTD, OTR/L, Jonathan White, MArch

The training activities: (1) collaborate with new and existing networks to expand outreach and assistance on accessibility and universal design (UD) to community members; (2) co-ordinate continuing professional education to designers, builders, planners, occupational therapists, and others through traditional and online courses and workshops; and (3) increase capacity for practice in the field of accessibility and UD through graduate assistantships. Together, these efforts are increasing demand for knowledge of UD.

Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments textbook

Project Leads: Jordana Maisel, PhD and Heamchand Subryan, MFA/MArch

The dissemination activities: (1) support publication of findings, methods, guidelines, and standards developed in the RERC activities, (2) ensure timely and flexible delivery of data and information to all of our stakeholder groups, (3) educate the general public through mass media publications and an electronic newsletter, and (4) organize a conference program and outreach activities to improve networking and communications among stakeholders.


Maisel, J. (2016). Impact of Older Adults’ Neighborhood Perceptions on Walking Behavior. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 24, 247-255.


Kim, K., Steinfeld, E. (2016). An Evaluation of stairway designs featured in architectural record between 2000 and 2012. Archnet-IJAR, 10, 96-112.

Steinfeld, E., Maisel, J. L. (2012). Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..


Li, Y., Hsu, J., & Fernie, G. (2013). Aging and the Use of Pedestrian Facilities in Winter—The Need for Improved Design and Better Technology. Journal of Urban Health90(4), 602–617.


Steinfeld, E. (2013). Creating an inclusive environment. In S. Skavlid, H.P. Olsen, and A.K. Haugeto (Ed.), Trends in Universal Design (pp. 52-57). Oslo, Norway: The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs and The Delta Centre.


Tauke, B., Davis, C., and Smith, K. (2015). Diversity and Design: Understanding the Hidden Consequences. New York & London: Routledge.


Kim, K., and Steinfeld, E. (2014). The Effects of Interactive Stairways on User Behavior and Safety. Assistive Technology Research Series, 35, 157 – 166.


Kim, K., Steinfeld, E. (2016). An Evaluation of stairway designs featured in architectural record between 2000 and 2012. Archnet-IJAR, 10, 96-112.


Lenker, J., Maisel, J. L., Ranahan, M. (2016). Assessing the Implementation of Complete Streets Projects. Journal of Architecture and Planning Research, 3, 199-212.

Coming Soon…

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Previous RERC-UD Cycles


1999 - 2004

Established the need for UD and created a catalyst for the growth of the UD community. Created a model for using anthropometry in UD, developed strategies for promoting UD adoption in the building and product industries, and encouraged consumers, both with and without disabilities, to value UD in the marketplace.

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2005 - 2010

Produced strategically important deliverables that helped faciliate and advance the field of UD. Generated critical human factors data to resolve design and engineering problems, developed methods to evaluate the usability of designs for people with disabilities, and identified priorities for research and development.

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2010 - 2015

Advanced knowledge translation for universal design using a Knowledge-To-Action Model. Engaged in strategically important projects that integrated UD Goals with the generally accepted models of practice across three domains of the built environment: (1) housing, (2) public buildings, and (3) community infrastructure.

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2015 - 2020

Addresses key needs for knowledge and demonstrates the value of evidence-based practice. Includes evaluations of buildings and facilities using UD features to assess their effectiveness, strengthen the business case for UD, and provide evidence to support increased adoption of UD.

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