Universal Design: It’s not just about you.

What if every building and every home was designed to make it accessible to anyone and everyone who wanted to enter regardless of their age, size, or ability or disability? In the design world, it’s called “Universal Design” and can be applied to products as well as places and even websites.

What is Universal Design?

It was not until 1997 that Universal Design was created,

“Universal Design is 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. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.” Source: http://universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/

Universal Design in Homes and Community

When it comes to communities and pocket neighborhoods where clusters of homes are built with those interested in being neighbors and enjoying their home, Universal Design becomes even more important.  Each home is not just built for the tenant’s accessibility but also with everyone else who may be visiting or staying in the home or the community. Here are examples of common universal design features in homes (for more, click here)

  • No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home’s main rooms.
  • One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
  • Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
  • Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.
  • Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.
  • Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They’re not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.
  • Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair or stroller to get through a doorway. They also keep others from tripping.
  • Good lighting helps people with poor vision. And it helps everyone else see better, too.
  • Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. But others like them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You’ll never go back to knobs or standard switches.

Visuals always help:

More research and information

To read more case studies incorporating Universal Design, visit this website:  http://universaldesigncasestudies.org/

To read about universal design and aging in place by the National Association of Home Builders, visit: https://www.nahb.org/en/consumers/homeownership/aging-in-place-vs-universal-design.aspx


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