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What Is Universal Design?

What Is Universal Design?

If you have ever been in a public building, you have experienced the benefits of universal design, but you may not be familiar with the term.  Read on to find out more about universal design.

Universal design refers to the practice of designing a space so it is universally-accessible to everyone.  In the past, commercial spaces were often referred to as “handicapped-accessible,” while private homes were rarely designed with this concept in mind.  In reality, though, universal design is much more than simply making a space accessible to someone in a wheelchair, and this design practice is becoming much more popular with homeowners.

universal design bathroom

Universal design seeks to create spaces that anyone can enjoy.  Further, universal design offers this enhanced function often in an invisible manner – spaces don’t look “handicapped-accessible,” but they function for everyone.

Consider door knobs, as an example.  Quite often – especially in newer homes – designers are no longer specifying door knobs.  Instead, door levers are being installed.  These levers are easier to use, as they don’t require any hand strength to operate.  So, while door levers are great for older folks or those with limited use of their hands, they are also handy for moms who have their hands full of grocery bags – the door can be opened easily with an elbow.  🙂

The use of levers on faucets, larger pulls on cabinet doors and drawers, walk-in showers with little or no curb at the door, minimal stairs and enhanced lighting options for better visibility are all examples of universal design principles that can be incorporated into new and existing homes.

And, today we are finding that it isn’t only older or disabled homeowners that are requesting universal design features in their homes.  In fact, many homes with universal design features are being built by younger folks with an eye for the future.  More and more people want to live in their homes long term, and they don’t want to be chased out of their homes by a future disability.  Planning ahead by adding universal design features at the start allows more folks to remain in their own homes longer, and gives them the option of caring for elderly family members in the interim.

I will be sharing more specifics about universal design with you in the coming weeks.  Be sure to check back to learn more about this practice and how you can apply it to your new home or remodeling project.

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