Universal Design & Building Management

In order to evaluate your site for physical accessibility, it is encouraged to follow the rules of Universal Design.

“Universal Design refers to the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.”

– Synopsis of the Disability Act, 2005

Other resources

For information about the application of Universal Design in building management, please consult  Building for Everyone: A Universal Design Approach booklet 8.

Building Signs:

To effectively communicate through signage, it is important that they are clear and self-evident. They must indicate clearly the elements and facilities within a building, which are accessible. It shall be provided at inaccessible locations indicating the way to alternate accessible routes, facilities, and entrances. Changes in illumination, colour contrasts between wall and floor surfaces at intersections, consistent location of directional signage and special equipment for the visually impaired shall be provided to help people with visual impairments distinguish pathways and identify location.

Appropriate Language 

As part of McGill’s core values, it is important that everyone is to be treated with respect and dignity. The following information is taken direction from Employment and Social Development Canada.

Appropriate Words

Instead of...

Please use...

Birth defect, congenital Person born with a disability, person who has a...
defect, deformity congenital disability.
Blind (the), visually impaired (the) Person who is blind, person with a visual impairment.
Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-bound Person who uses a wheelchair, wheelchair user.
Cripple, crippled, lame Person with a disability, person with a mobility impairment, person who has a spinal cord injury, arthritis, etc.
Hard of hearing (the), hearing impaired Person who is hard of hearing
Note: These individuals are not deaf and may compensate for a hearing loss with an amplification device or system.
Deaf-mute, deaf and dumb Person who is deaf
Note: Culturally-linguistically deaf people (that is, sign language users) are properly identified as "the Deaf" (upper-case "D"). People who do not use sign language are properly referred to as "the deaf" (lower-case "d") or "persons who are deaf."
Epileptic (the) Person who has epilepsy.
Fit, attack, spell Seizure.
Handicapped (the) Person with a disability.
Handicapped parking, bathrooms Accessible parking, accessible bathrooms.
Inarticulate, incoherent Person who has a speech disorder, person who has a speech disability.
Insane (unsound mind), lunatic, maniac, mental patient, mentally diseased, mentally ill, neurotic, psychotic Person with a mental health disability
Note: The term "insane" (unsound mind) should only be used in a strictly legal sense. The expression "person with a mental health disability" is broad. If relevant to the story, you can specify the type of disability, for example, "person who has depression" or "person who has schizophrenia."
Invalid Person with a disability.
Learning disabled, learning disordered, dyslexic (the) Person with a learning disability.
Mentally retarded, defective, feeble minded, idiot, imbecile, moron, retarded, simple, mongoloid Person with an intellectual disability
Note: If relevant to the story, specify the type of disability.
Normal Person without a disability.
Person who has trouble… Person who needs…
Physically challenged, physically handicapped, physically impaired Person with a disability.
Spastic Person who has spasms.
Suffers from, stricken with... Person with a disability.
Afflicted by... Note: People with disabilities do not necessarily suffer.
Victim of cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc. Person who has cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc. Person with a mobility impairment, person with a disability.

Appropriate Images

  • Use images that show people with disabilities participating in society. Do not use images that isolate or call special attention to people with disabilities unless they are appropriate to the subject matter.
  • Use actors or models with disabilities to portray people with disabilities.
  • Present the typical individual who has a disability, rather than depicting him or her as a super-achiever.


Food for Thought!

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design put together a free downloadable series called “Building for Everyone: A Universal Design Approach” providing necessary information on how to design, build and manage building while applying the UD principles.

Ed Roberts Campus

For more information visit the Ed Roberts Campus webpage

Showcasing Universal Design in a Studio Environment by Quadrangle Architects

Smart Design's UD Washroom

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