Have you ever had difficulty getting in and out of your shower, turning on a faucet, reading the print on appliance controls, opening a door when you are carrying a bag of groceries, or reaching something on the top shelf of your pantry? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, perhaps you need to incorporate universal design features into your home. Universal design is a worldwide movement that is based on the idea that all environments and products should be usable by all people, regardless of their ages, sizes, or abilities. Universal design has also been referred to as “design for all,” “inclusive design,” and “life-span design.”
Universal design features can be incorporated into home modification if you are building a new home or repairing or renovating an existing home. Modifications can vary from larger projects such as installing a walk-in shower to smaller projects such as installing lever door knobs. In any case, the goal of universal design is not to entirely redesign your home but to make a range of changes or repairs that result in your home being a comfortable, user-friendly, and safer place to live.
The Ohio State University Factsheet entitled “Elements of Universal Design/ Home Modification” provides a list of challenges that individuals encounter and possible universal design solutions. Some examples include:
Limited Lifting or Flexibility
- Install easy to turn lever or automatic (touch) faucets
- Choose u-shaped drawer handles for cabinets and drawers that are easier to grasp
- Consider decorative grab bars in the shower or by the toilet and tub to increase safety.
- Replace standard light switches with rocker switches that are easier to use.
- Install a bath/shower seat or tub with a transfer bench to ease getting in and out of the bath.
- Use transition wedges at door thresholds to avoid tripping.
- Give sidewalks and driveways a textured surface to increase traction and stability.
- Use handrails on both sides of stairways.
- Purchase appliances with large print controls.
- Install lighting near outside of walkways, stairs, and entrances.
- Use nightlights where appropriate.
- Install under the cabinet lights or task lighting, over kitchen counter work areas.
As you and your family change, so should your home. Keep in mind that a home with universal design feature accommodates everyone’s needs, whether they are young or old, short or tall, with physical limitations or without.
Adapted from OSU Extension Publication SS-190-02 found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/ss-fact/0190.html
Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, O.S.U. Extension
Reviewed by: Susan Zies, MS, Assistant Professor, Extension Educator, O.S.U. Extension Wood County