Universal Design with Mary Jo Peterson

Universal Design recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to design and construction. By incorporating Universal Design features into the built environment, we can accommodate for the widest variety of people, regardless of their limitations.

But, while the buzz around Universal Design is growing, we still receive many questions surrounding what it means for a specific project and where it can be applied.

To help answer these questions, we’ve asked Universal Design expert and award-winning author, Mary Jo Peterson, to share her knowledge of the topic and provide some examples of what it might mean for a specific project.

Episode Guest: Mary Jo Peterson

Mary Jo Peterson headshot

Mary Jo Peterson is an award-winning author, speaker, educator, and designer with over 25 years of experience. She is president of Mary Jo Peterson, Inc, a design studio and consulting firm established in 1993 with specialized expertise in kitchen, bath, and universal/accessible design. The firm offers consulting services to private clients, manufactures of product, and builders/developers/architects in the design of universal spaces and products. Prominent projects include design for Del Webb, Pulte, and other major homebuilders, demonstration exhibit space for GE Appliances, Jenn-Air, and Hafele, and everyone’s favorite, the Betty Crocker Kitchens at General Mills in Minneapolis, MN. Ms. Peterson has contributed to the development of new national universal design standards introduced in 2013. Author of Universal Interiors by Design (McGraw-Hill Professional, 1999) and Universal Kitchen and Bathroom Planning (McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 1998) as well as Kitchen Planning and Bath Planning of the NKBA resource library (latest edition, Wiley, 2013), Ms. Peterson has been elected by her peers to the NKBA Hall of Fame. She is author and instructor of the universal design courses offered by NKBA. Named by NAHB as CAPS Educator of the Year 2014, she is an author/instructor of the CAPS and UD/Build programs of NAHB. Involved with government and advocacy groups, Mary Jo works at integrating universal access and sustainability into home and product design, and actively promotes change and education towards the integration of access, sustainability, and beautiful design.


Episode Information and Resources

Mary Jo Peterson’s website

News: Universal Design in WELL Building Standard

Blog: Universal Design vs. Accessible Design

Blog: Designing for All – Cooper Hewitt’s Access+Ability Exhibition

Book: Universal Kitchen and Bathroom Planning: Design That Adapts to People

Ted Talk: Why We Need Universal Design

About Buildings and Beyond

Buildings and Beyond is a production of Steven Winter Associates. We provide energy, green building, and accessibility consulting services to improve the built environment. For more information, visit


Robb Aldrich | Kelly Westby

Production Team

Heather Breslin | Alex Mirabile | Dylan Martello

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Marc Zuluaga Headshot