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Exploring relationships between universal design and social sustainable development: some methodological aspects to the debate on the sciences of sustainability


  • Tom Vavik

    (Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Institute of Design, Oslo, Norway)

  • Martina Maria Keitsch

    (Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Institute of Design, Oslo, Norway)


Universal design (UD) is a rising global trend and can be related to social sustainable development (SSD), which has gained increasing recognition in the political arena and in the corporate world. UD targets needs, social participation and access to goods and services by the widest possible range of users. For this reason, it is vital to consider the inclusion and advancement of persons who have been excluded from interacting in society for different reasons. Design is often associated with making good looking, expensive products. However, as the Rio Declaration stated in 2005, designers can also contribute to better life-quality in society and UD can work as a catalyst for this advancement. The goal of this paper is to show how UD can be related to SSD and discuss how far it presents a fruitful methodological approach for SSD. Knowledge generation in these areas means here not analyzing new approaches in one of the fields but exploring the so far uncharted cooperation possibilities of both. For that reason, the paper discusses common goals of UD and SSD by considering relevant theories in both fields. Further, methods in the UD process are examined directed at these goals. Finally, some examples and conclusions are presented as to how designers contribute with inclusive and socially sustainable solutions and how insights from UD can be used for interplay with SSD in research and practice. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Tom Vavik & Martina Maria Keitsch, 2010. "Exploring relationships between universal design and social sustainable development: some methodological aspects to the debate on the sciences of sustainability," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(5), pages 295-305.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:sustdv:v:18:y:2010:i:5:p:295-305
    DOI: 10.1002/sd.480

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    Cited by:

    1. Catalina Soriana Sitnikov & Claudiu George Bocean, 2013. "Relationships among social and environmental responsibility and business," The AMFITEATRU ECONOMIC journal, Academy of Economic Studies - Bucharest, Romania, vol. 15(Special 7), pages 759-768, November.
    2. Khan, Rakhshanda, 2015. "Small Hydro Power in India: Is it a sustainable business?," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 207-216.

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