Universal design refers to design and construction with the goal of making the building accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities. Universal design is about creating accessible spaces for all people. You may hear it in reference to remodeling when people intend to “age-in-place” but, it is also common for families with members with special needs and families that are forward thinking. From a resale standpoint, it does open your home to all prospective buyers as well. The goal with incorporating universal design features is to make the home seem like any other while including easy access for everyone. Universal design takes thoughtful planning and creative thinking to create these multi-use spaces while keeping them seamless with traditional design elements.
Examples of Popular Universal Design Elements in Homes
Examples of UD in General Building Design
- Wider hallways and doorways to allow for wheelchair access – interior doors should have at least 32 inches of unobstructed width
- A half bath on the main floor (accessible without stairs)
- At least one zero-step entrance on a route that’s accessible from either the driveway or sidewalk
- In bedrooms make light switches within easy reach of the bed and add adjustable closet rods
Examples of UD in Bathrooms
- Zero entry shower bases eliminate the need to step or roll over a threshold
- Grab bars in the tub or shower area or next to the toilet provide safety and support
- Tubs that contain ledges or seating areas on the edge of the tub to improve accessibility or removable flip-up benches that allow the tub to be used like a conventional tub
- Taller toilets to make it easier to sit down on and stand up from
- Shower systems with grab bars pre-installed
- Easy entry bathtubs like the Kohler Elevance rising wall bath. One side of this tub lowers for bathers to enter even in wheelchairs then opens again when drained to allow the bather to exit.
Examples of UD in the Kitchen
- Lower sinks and countertops, or adjustable height countertops
- Hands-free or touch-activated faucets
- Roll-out shelves or drawers to make it easier to see and reach items stored in lower cabinets
- Drawer appliances including dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves and food warmers, are available seamlessly blending into the cabinetry and making it easy for users to access the items
- Cabinets with easy pull-out or rollout storage
- Cutting boards built in to cabinetry drawers
- Ovens with large windows
- Smooth electric cooktops or gas cooktops with continuous grates so pots and pans can be moved without lifting
- Cooktops with a short burner box to allow wheelchairs to slide under them
- Cooktops with staggered burners so users don’t reach over hot burners
- Appliances with handles, buttons, and graphics located on the front to be closer to the user
- Pull-out counters underneath built-in, single wall oven to make the transfer of hot dishes or pans from the oven easier
7 Principles of Universal Design
- Equitable Use – the design should be easily used by all people – with and without disabilities
- Flexibility in Use – the design should accommodate a wide range of preferences and abilities
- Simple and Intuitive Use – use of the design should be easy to understand regardless of experience, knowledge or language
- Perceptible Information – the design communicates necessary information regardless of conditions or user sensory abilities
- Tolerance for Error – the design minimizes errors or mishaps due to accidental or unintended actions
- Low Physical Effort – the design should not require extensive effort and should be able to be used easily and comfortably regardless of physical ability
- Size and Space for Approach and Use – the design should include ample space for approach, reach, and manipulation regardless of user ability, body size, posture or mobility.
As you can imagine, it takes extra training and education to be able to apply these principles to remodeling projects. These upgrades are not easy for DIY remodelers.
Hire the Right Universal Design Remodeling Company in Kansas City
Not everyone is qualified to incorporate universal design into a construction project. A Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP) has received extensive training on how to interview clients with an u
nderstanding and consideration of their special needs.