Ronald L. Mace, FAIA

Ron Mace

Ronald L. Mace, FAIA


Design pioneer and visionary of Universal Design Ron Mace was a nationally and internationally recognized architect, product designer and educator whose design philosophy challenged convention and provided a design foundation for a more usable world.


He coined the term "universal design" to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. He was also a devoted advocate for the rights of people with disabilities which is reflected in his work.

He graduated from the School of Design at North Carolina State University in 1966 with a Bachelor's degree in architecture. After four years of practicing conventional architecture, he became involved in the effort to produce the first building code for accessibility in the nation. This code became mandatory in North Carolina in 1973 and served as a model for other states. Ron's pioneering work in accessible design was instrumental in the passage of national legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

In 1989, Ron established the federally-funded Center for Accessible Housing, currently known as The Center for Universal Design, at the School of Design at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He was also Research Professor in the Architecture Department at the School of Design. Under Ron's direction, the Center has become a leading national and international resource for research and information on universal design in housing, products, and the built environment. Several of the projects Ron directed at the Center include the development of universal house plans for a modular home company; new universal designs for a thermostat, an adjustable toilet, faucets, and a multi-use modular bathing unit; and a number of design publications. Under his direction, the Center was a co-sponsor of "Designing for the 21st Century: An International Conference on Universal Design" held in New York in June 1998. Ron Mace's last speech that he gave at the 1998 international conference. He discusses the differences between assistive technology, barrier-free and universal design; he also describes several examples of universal design.

Ron was also President of Barrier Free Environments, Inc. (BFE), an accessible design consulting firm, and a Principal of BFE Architecture, P.A. in Raleigh, North Carolina. At BFE, Inc. Ron consulted on accessibility issues for The Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; the design of a universal street toilet for JC Decaux of France; and the grounds and buildings at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. While at BFE, Ron also produced a number of publications on accessible design including The Planner's Guide to Barrier Free Meetings (1980), The Accessible Housing Design File (1991), The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines Tech Sheet Series (1994-95), and Highlights of the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design Slide Show (1993).

Ron was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and received the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States in 1992 for distinguished service in promoting dignity, equality, independence and employment of people with disabilities.


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