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Does your home fit you? It is the pivotal question asked when takitchenlking about the concept of Universal Design. So what is Universal Design? It is a worldwide movement based on the idea that all environments and products should be usable by all people, regardless of their ages, sizes, or abilities. Because this movement applies to everyone, the concept of Universal Design is known around the world as “design for all,” “inclusive design,” and “life-span design.”

An important component of Universal Design is the maintenance of aesthetics. In other words, to create something that is still “visually pleasing” to others despite being accessible to everyone. Function does NOT have to sacrifice beauty. As a result, universally designed homes and public buildings can be just as beautiful and welcoming as any other design approach. Increasingly, experts are referring to the concept of Universal Design as the “wave of the future.” It is the hope of Universal Design advocates that eventually all buildings, homes, and products will be designed to meet the needs of everyone.

WHY HOME MODIFICATION?

Whether you are building a new home, or repairing or renovating an existing home, you too can incorporate characteristics of Universal Design through home modification. These modifications can vary from building a new home with universally designed features, to simple installation of lever door knobs on an older home, to more complex structural changes in an existing home, such as installing a walk-in shower or an accessible ramp. The goal of home modification for existing homes is not to entirely redesign the 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.

bathroomImplementing Universal Design home modifications can result in a home that you can remain in as you age. This concept is often referred to as “aging in place.” The idea behind “aging in place” is to enable individuals to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. The goal is to avoid having to relocate simply because one’s home is too difficult to get around in.

WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES OF UNIVERSAL DESIGN?

A group of Universal Design advocates from the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University have developed seven principles of Universal Design. These principles can be applied to evaluate existing environments or products, serve as guidelines in the development or renovation of existing environments, and serve to educate consumers and professionals wanting to understand the characteristics of this design approach.

Principle 1: Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions of the user’s sensory abilities.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

The American Association of Retired Persons provides a Home Fit Quiz which gives suggestions on home modifications that can make your home safe and comfortable for years to come

Remember, a home that has universal design features is a home that fits everyone’s needs whether they are young or old, short or tall, with physical limitations or without.

Writer: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educatore, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

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