Universal design: smart design

Credit: Downsizing Diva

With your young ones moving out, you decide perhaps it’s time to downsize and move into a smaller space with your senior parents. Having said that, you look into finding a house that could easily be made accessible for your father who is having difficulty walking – he now uses a walker and may eventually need to use a wheelchair. The solution to your concern would be the term, “universal design”.

What is universal design?

Universal design is the design and configuration 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.

Benefits of universal design

  • Safer and easier for all to use
  • Easier for people with temporary injuries
  • Easier for visitors who are disabled or have children
  • Easier to occupy without needing to modify layouts
  • Able to get independent recognition in third-party schemes
  • More attractive to a wide range of buyers

As we age, safety and accessibility become more important issues in home design, construction and renovation. Good planning is necessary to ensuring a successful universal design. Sometimes a few extra feet can make a big difference.

Some aspects of universal design

  • Same level entrance(s) to accommodate strollers, bikes and walkers.
  • Outdoor lighting above entry door and/or motion-detector controlled lights to improve the view of approaching visitors and add security.
  • Handrails on both sides of the stairs, extending beyond the top and bottom risers, provide additional support and help reduce falls.
  • Outdoor house numbers should be large, high contrast and located in a prominent area to make it easier for emergency services (and friends) to locate your home.
  • Single-lever controls on all plumbing fixtures and faucets and anti-scald valves for tubs and showers make them easier and safer to use.
  • Area carpets and runners should be stabilized with two-sided tape or non-slip underpads.
  • Lever door openers and large drawer pulls are easier to grasp.
  • Light switches come in lots of colours and designs; consider replacing small toggle switches with larger rocker buttons to make turning lights on and off easier.
  • Place a chair or bench at your front and back doors to make it easier to put on boots and shoes.

Not everyone recognizes that universal design as an important factor when it comes to interior design. Although it may across as a hassle to account for when moving and doing renovations, it can make a difference and make your life easier.

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