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Access For All Is Universal Design

 A new concept in the accessibility movement is Universal Design.  The aim of Universal Design is to incorporate accessibility features into the home which can be comfortably used by everyone, not just those requiring mobility enhancements.  Often described as a “smart” design, Universal Design allows anyone to use the space provided, no matter their age, size, or any physical limitations they may have. 

An example of Universal Design is the use of lever door handles in place of the standard round door knobs. Whereas door knobs can be difficult for people with limited use of their hands, lever handles can be used by everyone.  

Standards Are Changing

Today's standards in home design are changing as more and more individuals are opting to stay in their homes and forgo the move to a retirement community.  Therefore, having a home designed for the future is vital.  While it is impossible to plan for everything, there are several Universal Design standards that today's homebuyers can consider.

A simple example is the standard interior hallway. In most cases, the width of a standard hallway is 36-inches. When planning ahead for future years of use, that standard 36-inch width simply isn’t enough to include the potential of a loved one needing a home which is wheelchair accessible. While most standard wheelchairs have a width of 26-28 inches, that doesn’t account for the length of the wheelchair. With an average length of 42+ inches, making a turn into a bedroom from the standard hallway while in a wheelchair becomes problematic, and will inhibit accessibility.

The same can then be said about doorways. Standard door widths range between 30 and 36 inches, and while standard walkers’ range in size between 25 and 29-inches,  these doorways do not give much room for the user’s hands and any movement needed to make turns.  Universal Design takes into consideration the overall accessibility of the home for those who may need these additional tools to help them continue living their best life at home. 

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Dining Table

Multi-Generational Housing for Families

Universal Design is also a key element in creating ‘multi-generational' housing for families.  Recent studies show that more Americans are choosing to live under one roof with their children and grandparents.  In fact, 2016 set the record for having the most people living with multiple generations, according to Pew Research Center.  At 20% of the U.S. population living in multi-generational housing, that number falls just shy of the 21% record set in 1950.  In 1950, that percentage equated to around 32 million individuals.  In 2016, it equates to 64 million!

In summary, Universal Design incorporates designs that permit accessibility for all ages, and as more individuals opt to age in place or add space for the entire family, this home design can accommodate everyone, regardless of their physical abilities today or tomorrow.

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