Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Some universal design/build ideas just make good sense. Once you bring them into your home, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them. Universal Design isn’t just for the elderly or the permanently disabled. As Americans age, they’re beginning to realize that their homes need to accommodate future life changes. Consumers are more cognizant today of the benefits of a universally designed home, but they may not realize it can be beautiful as well as functional. Everyone can use universal design! It doesn't matter if you are young or old. You could be short or tall, healthy or ill. You might have a disability or you may be a star athlete. Because of universal design ideas, people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. And that home will be there for all its inhabitants even when their needs change.
Try to envision building a house as a young adult so that you can live in comfort while you age no matter what your basic physical needs require. This adaptable and inclusive design home contains wide doorways and hallways that can accommodate both a stroller and a wheelchair or walker. There is a wide-open feeling throughout the house's main living areas. The bathroom, kitchen, and living area do not restrict moving about by anyone. There is blocking behind the finished walls to accommodate secure grab bar installations when needed. Carefully chosen towel racks in the kitchen double as grab bars as you become unsteady from lack of balance. All the entryways from the front door to the shower entrance are smooth to prevent tripping from high thresholds. All doors and faucets are controlled by a lever or other graspable hardware. This universally designed home is a barrier-free design without looking modified and is accessible to everyone no matter their age, size, or capability of movement. This home is accessible to everyone from your father to your son.
Universal design ideas do not strictly deal with accessibility or aging in place design and do not implement precise ADA standards but it does offer flexibility to add accessories now and later to those planning ahead or to the end-user. It also provides for a wide range of human performance characteristics for the way people use spaces within their homes including well-integrated usability features. These adaptations have a broad market appeal to everyone for achieving ease of use, safety, and convenience accommodating a certain reality. The reality is that all people exist along a continuum of human performance as per their personal traits and characteristics regardless of their age. A universal approach to design takes into account that everyone has varying degrees of ability and disability rather than someone is either fully-functional or disabled. A universal design/build project is appealing to all users. When correctly applied, any area of the home is accented universally with stylish function and is virtually invisible. The functionality of the home never calls attention to any of its inhabitants. It also segues seamlessly into Aging in Place.
If you have decided to stay in your existing home as you age, Aging in place home modifications are available through T-Square Company in Austin, Texas using the principles of Universal Design. We are one of the premier universal design/build contractors in Austin. We hold certifications in the U.S. and Australia. Each universal design/build project is customized to fit any and all homeowner's personal needs. T-Square Company will design and build you an adapted living environment completely customized around your abilities. We have over three decades of building and remodeling experience practicing as a disability contractor for people with special needs. We want to help our clients be as self-sufficient and independent as possible by offering handicap-accessible floor plans. Let us show you how to increase safety and accessibility within your personal living environment. Call 512-444-0097 today to begin to prepare for the accessible second chapter of your life while remaining safe and secure in your existing home. Whether your project concerns home modifications, an accessible addition or wing, or new construction we can help you increase your accessibility using our Universal Design/build experience.
David L. Traut, President, and Owner, CAPS 1636580 (Certified Aging in Place Specialist)
It appears that after so long a time spent blogging, soapbox deliveries, and conversations with my customers concerning the importance of Universal Design in the future of our home building industry others have listened and are in agreement. I was humbled to find this article published in the Austin American Statesman and take pride in the fact that people are beginning to see the importance of this very forward-thinking design concept. May this article help to propel the needed universal building movement forward. You can read the article for yourself.
Simple adjustments like a sideways opening oven can make life a lot easier for a person in a wheelchair. | Jofre Essley / Flickr
For many years disabled people faced challenges at every corner of public life. Stairs, rough ground, or even just reaching objects on a shelf created obstacles at inopportune times. Then the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) came into play. Wheelchair ramps and handicapped restrooms became commonplace in common spaces, and the result has been an improved quality of life for millions.
Then there’s the subject of home design. Homes have been modified for many years to meet the needs of the disabled, but now there is a new concept of “universal design,” which means homes being built for all needs from the beginning, even if there is not currently a disabled person living there.
“Along with aging in place, universal design is becoming more of a household term,” says T-Square Company (14141 Highway 290 West, Suite 800 in Austin) in an online blog. “Essentially, it’s about building or modifying places and spaces—both public and private—to accommodate people of all ages and abilities. More than just an architectural concept, universal design is a win-win for sandwich generation boomers caring for aging parents and their children at home, for grandparents raising grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and for all who are facing the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other chronic diseases. Whether your family needs the support now or down the road, universal design features are a good long-term investment for the home itself.”