March 2023 Accessibility Corner Blog

The Principles of Disability Justice and Universal Design

“Accessibility is the right thing to do. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?” – Steve Krug

This month, we want to highlight the significance of disability justice in the work of Colorado Creative Industries grantees and partners. It is crucial that all citizens, including those with disabilities, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that this happens. To accomplish this objective, we urge you to contemplate the principles of disability justice and the components of universal design in your work.

Disability justice is an intersectional framework that recognizes that disability is not only a medical condition but also a social identity shaped by power dynamics, discrimination, and systemic barriers. It challenges the traditional disability rights movement that focuses on equal access and reasonable accommodations and expands the conversation to address the root causes of oppression.

The 10 Principles of Disability Justice are a set of guiding values and practices that can help create a more inclusive and equitable environment for people with disabilities. These principles are:

  • Intersectionality - recognizing that people have multiple identities and experiences that intersect and influence their lives.
  • Leadership of people with disabilities - valuing the perspectives, experiences, and expertise of people with disabilities as leaders, decision-makers, and change agents.
  • Anti-capitalism - challenging the market-driven and profit-oriented culture that devalues people with disabilities and their contributions.
  • Cross-movement solidarity - building alliances with other social justice movements and recognizing the interconnectedness of all struggles.
  • Recognizing wholeness - valuing the emotional, spiritual, and cultural aspects of people with disabilities and promoting their holistic well-being.
  • Sustainability - advocating for environmentally conscious and accessible practices that benefit people with disabilities and the planet.
  • Commitment to cross-disability solidarity - recognizing the diversity within the disability community and the need for solidarity and allyship.
  • Recognizing cultural and linguistic diversity - acknowledging and respecting the different cultures, languages, and communication styles of people with disabilities.
  • Flexibility - embracing fluidity and adaptability in recognizing and accommodating the needs of people with disabilities.
  • Collective access - creating collective and collaborative solutions that benefit all people, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

By adopting these principles, we can challenge the ableist norms and systems that marginalize people with disabilities and create a more just and equitable society for all. 

Universal design is another important concept that complements the principles of disability justice. It's a design philosophy that aims to create products, environments, and services that can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities or identities. It is a design philosophy that strives to create products, environments, and services that are accessible and usable by the broadest possible range of people, regardless of their abilities or identities. 

Universal design recognizes that people have diverse needs, preferences, and abilities and that everyone benefits from products and services that are designed with inclusion in mind. It can also help promote the principles of disability justice by creating inclusive and equitable opportunities for people with disabilities to engage with and contribute to the creative economy of Colorado The seven components of universal design are:

  • Equitable Use
  • Flexibility in Use
  • Simple and Intuitive Use
  • Perceptible Information
  • Tolerance for Error
  • Low Physical Effort
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use

For instance, a building designed with universal design principles may have features such as wide doors, ramps, and accessible restrooms that benefit people with mobility impairments, but also provide benefits to parents with strollers, travelers with luggage, or people with temporary injuries.Making products, environments, and services inclusive from the beginning, universal design can save time, money, and resources while also promoting equity, diversity, and innovation.

Incorporating universal design in the work of Colorado Creative Industries grantees and partners can help ensure that their programs and services are accessible, usable, and welcoming to everyone. By designing products, services, and environments that are usable by everyone, we can promote equal access to opportunities and resources, and challenge ableist assumptions.

Colorado Creative Industries grantees and partners can incorporate the 10 principles and 7 components  into their work to ensure that their programs, services, and activities are accessible, inclusive, and empowering for people with disabilities. By centering both of these concepts, we can create a more inclusive and equitable environments/experiences that value the diverse experiences and contributions of all citizens.

NOTE: Are you curious about the concept of disability justice? Do you want to do your own self exploration of the topic?  If so, we highly recommend checking out the documentary "Crip Camp" and exploring the corresponding curriculum! The film and curriculum are both incredibly informative and provide a great starting point for learning more about disability justice. So why not take a dive into this fascinating topic today? Just head to the Crip Camp Curriculum to get started!


Blog compiled by Marcie Moore Gantz. Thanks to Breaking Barriers for inspiring this with their information on universal design and disability justice!