The topic of Universal Design has come up at trade shows, trade magazines & in many real estate publications that cater to Baby Boomers & the Senior Set. Here are some quick tips on what Universal Design IS & how it can be implemented into your current space, regardless of your age. It's important to highlight that Universal Design is beneficial to ALL age ranges & physical/mental capabilities.
The definition of Universal Design is "Universal design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to both people without disabilities and people with disabilities" From Wikipedia, "Universal design emerged from slightly earlier barrier-free concepts, the broader accessibility movement, and adaptive and assistive technology and also seeks to blend aesthetics into these core considerations. As life expectancy rises and modern medicine increases the survival rate of those with significant injuries, illnesses, and birth defects, there is a growing interest in universal design. There are many industries in which universal design is having strong market penetration but there are many others in which it has not yet been adopted to any great extent. Universal design is also being applied to the design of technology, instruction, services, and other products and environments."
Here's more from an interview I did last year on this topic:
An EFFICIENT Floor-Plan will help you stay in your home longer:
Examples include:An efficient floor-plan (i.e. public rooms in the front (living/family) and private rooms (bedrooms) in the back. A ranch/single story floor plan is what they should look at due to no stairs, as this can/will be hard on knees/hips if/when arthritis or other bone & joint issues occur. If a 2-story is currently owned, a master bedroom w/en suite bath on the 1st floor, with the rest of bathrooms on 2nd floor is OK. Bathrooms that have a 5' turning radius to accommodate wheelchair/walkers, and a bath that has a separate shower (no tub feature) for easier access. Doorways/hallways need to be at least 42" to accommodate a wheelchair if necessary (most new construction already has this as part of code, but older homes only have a 36' door.
Why incorporate Universal Design features now?
Incorporating these features now allows ease of access for ALL family members now. And, as you have "time" right now & aren't hurried, you can remodel/design without being rushed. Plus, some projects may fall under the current tax credits by the govt so you can take advantage of this on your tax returns.
Do Universal Design features ADD VALUE to your home?
Yes! It's not just seniors/baby boomers who utilize Universal Design. Anyone with sight impairments or physical disabilities can be empowered with the addition of UD in their spaces. From faucets & drawer pulls in the bathroom/kitchen, to wider doorways and flooring options, this increases your buyer pool AND can increase price of house as the VALUE of the house is increased due to updates.
What are the most important or must-have Universal Design features?
- Hard flooring surfaces with no height differences in transitions from various rooms. This is for ease of use with walkers/wheelchairs. This is also an easier to maintain floor for those with children/pets. It is imperative that there is a non-skid runner/accent rug to prevent slips & falls.
- Lever-style faucets and drawer & cabinet pulls in the bathroom and kitchen. This helps children and those suffering from arthritis to be able to open cabinets & drawers easily, and be able to turn faucet on/off with minimal discomfort. Think "D" shaped
- Counter-tops-Exchange glossy surfaces for those with matte finish decreasing glare. Also rounded corners as opposed to angled/sharp corners to prevent accidents.
- Lighting-Increase lighting in kitchens/baths with under cabinet lighting by adding T8 light strips to help evenly distribute light & reduce glare. This should be done anyway for safety reasons to cut down on accidents.
- Appliances-Upgrade old appliances for those with UD feature such as drawer refrigerator/freezers/microwaves to help decrease stooping and bending.
Hiring someone who is a specialist in this category helps save time, as they are the "expert" and can more readily design/remodel a space and/or make recommendations that are in compliance w/UD. They will also be up-to-date on codes, trends & new products that someone not in the trade would have access to. Someone who is a UD expert has taken CEU courses, dealings with vendors/manufacturers on UD products and has a background in this to help expedite the process.