Universal design means just that: design that allows for people of all physical abilities or life stage to comfortably use the designed space without compromising aesthetics or function. While the commercial design world has been operating with these requirements for many years, universal design for homes is quickly becoming the benchmark for good design as well. Everyone: old, young, able bodied or not, can benefit from a thoughtfully designed space. As designers, when we infuse aesthetics with the functional needs of a client, we create spaces that are both beautiful and efficient. These design changes can be as small as installing grab bars in home bathtubs or roll out bins in kitchen cabinetry and as large scale as installing ramps and elevators.
1. Equitable use – The home’s design should make it equally usable by everyone. Ideally, the means by which people use the home should be the same (e.g., providing one means of entry to the building that works well for everyone)tors in an entire home for wheelchair access. The 7 basic principles of Universal Design are:
2. Flexibility in use - The home’s design should allow people to use its design features in more than one prescribed way (e.g., providing a countertop that is usable from either a seated or standing position)
4. Perceptible information- The home should provide all essential information in a variety of modes to ensure effective communication with all users regardless of their sensory abilities.
5. Tolerance for error - Ideally, the home’s design should eliminate, isolate or shield any design features that could prove hazardous or inconvenient to any user.
6. Low physical effort – little to no physical force necessary to operate (e.g., replacing a traditional doorknob with a lever handle that does not require the ability to grasp and turn the wrist)
7. Size and Space for Approach and Use - A home’s design needs to be arranged to provide a clear path of travel to and from important design features for all users.