Who's heard of Universal Design?
Simply it's a way of designing a home which everyone can function in. People with physical challenges, the elderly, young children - really all of us. At some point in our lives, most of us will have a physical disability. Whether it's your teen aged son who hurts himself dirtbiking, hubby who throws his back out cleaning out the gutters, age related vision loss, or people faced with even greater health challenges, we all want to be able to use our homes to the best of our ability.
Did you know by the year 2020 over 50% of the populations will be over 65? If we're remodeling our home, or building a new home, it's wise to make a few subtle changes that may prove beneficial down the road.
Here are just a few things to consider.
Barrier free living:
Wide interior and exterior doors and hallways - wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair - a minimum of 32", preferably more.
Showers without the 'curb' preventing us from tripping upon entering and exiting.
Exterior Ramps going up to our homes.
A 60" minimum 'square' area where a wheelchair can turn around.
Faucet location - if possible, try to have the faucets placed to the side of the sink, then people don't need to stretch across the sink to reach the faucet.
Thermostatic Valve - for showers, these valves can be a blessing. This is usually shown as a shower faucet with 2 handles, 1 to control the flow of the water, and another lever, which is set by the user to the level of temperature of water. Set it and forget it. Let's put the shower lever at 48" in height or less, of we can all reach it.
Scald protection devices are essential in homes with young children, the elderly and the physically challenged, but are recommended for every home and may even be code in some areas. We've all experienced the sudden increase or decrease in bath water temperature that occurs when another member of your household uses water. Scald protection devices can help to maintain safer water temperatures.
Using lever handles makes life easier for everyone - no twisting or turning of knobs. Even better if they can be used with a closed fist or open hand.
Well lit areas are a must for all of us. Sconces throughout the bathrooms or hallways can emit a soft gentle light, non glaring. Ensure they don't protrude more than 4" so we don't bump into them (as per ADA standards).
As life expectancy rises and better health care increases the survival rate of those with significant injuries, illnesses, and birth challenges, there is a growing interest in universal design.
Let's do our best to help everyone live life to the fullest.
Jil Sonia McDonald - Interior Designer at Jil Sonia Interior Designs.