What is Universal Design?

We all progress through the seasons of life. Universal Design of homes anticipates these seasons and accommodates the widest array of the population when designing a home.

Some of us will experience injury or trauma, such as a wounded warrior, or an automobile accident. Others will face a medical challenge such as a stroke or Parkinson’s. All of us will age.

The concepts of Universal Design are that life progresses (sometimes unexpectedly) and that homes should be built with that progression in mind. Door knobs will be harder to turn as strength fades or if hands are arthritic. Stability declines and stairs are harder to navigate without something to hold. When using a walker or cane, just a single step at an entrance becomes difficult. In a wheelchair that single step is a mountain.

Universal Design offers a solution. Homes can be designed, built, and equipped with zero-step entrances, single story floor plans, ‘D’ handle openers instead of knobs, distributed lighting, and the like. These designs can be used by the widest range of people possible. ‘D’ handles not only help the aging open doors, they are easier for children as well.

If you were to tour a home constructed based on Universal Design concepts, it might seem contemporary and welcoming, with an open floor plan. Rooms would flow from one to the next with wide archways and no steps up or down. Doors would have ‘D’ handles, cabinet pulls would have room to get a hand behind them, and lighting would be bright and distributed, not a single fixture in the middle of the ceiling.

The bathroom would be open and contemporary, with a shower designed for access without crossing a curb. This home would have no clearly defined indicators as being designed to accommodate a person with a disability or a person of age. Yet, navigating this home would be easy for infant Suzie to navigate, still walking on shaky legs, as for Suzie’s great grandparents using canes and walkers.

Should life progress in a direction where a wheelchair is required, this home has wide spaces and hallways, no steps, a roll-in capable shower and can easily accept other modifications as the situation dictates.

Bottom line, there should no ‘stigma’ attached to a home designed for ease of access and safety through the seasons of life. Modifications to existing structures generally focus on specific changes required for specific needs. Yet, whether built from scratch or modified after the fact, everyone wants to stay in their home and enjoy it as long as they can, and Universal Design concepts can help make that happen.

While Mr. Handyman does not design and build homes from scratch, we can help upfit your home as the seasons of life progress. If you, or a loved one, have needs for something to hold (grab bars in bathrooms, railings by steps and stairwells), Mr. Handyman can help. If you need ramps to simplify access and entry doors, or door knobs replaced throughout the home, Mr. Handyman can help. And if you are getting around OK, but simply do not want to do your own home maintenance and repair any longer, Mr. Handyman can also help.

Please call to discuss your needs.