Universal Design

Accessibility and Convenience for Everyone

Replace knobs for improved usability.

If you are planning projects around your home that include accommodations for a member with disabilities, universal design will provide the most convenient, comfortable solution. Disabilities come in a variety of forms from the effects of accident and disease to the diminished capabilities that accompany aging. Whether the user is a handicapped child or a baby boomer looking at aging in place as a lifestyle option, there are many home improvements that will help most of us with the many changes that take place over time.

Universal design—also called transgenerational design—is about more than disability. It is intended to meet the needs of people with diverse abilities that change throughout their lives. It includes not only seniors or the physically disabled, but also the young, the pregnant, and the guy with a broken leg. Through its practice, the means of use are identical whenever possible for all users. Appealing design is incorporated as well as making appropriate provisions for privacy and security without resorting to design afterthoughts.

Universal design is characterized by its flexibility. A tool that is designed for use by only right-handed people is inflexible. A hand tool that is accurate and usable by either left- or right-handers as well as by those with various degrees of strength is a more optimal design.

There should be no mystery about how something is to be used. Simple, intuitive design lends itself to ease of use because there is no unnecessary learning curve. Regardless of age or intellectual ability, universal design strives to create an interface that can be successfully employed by almost everyone.

Within the context of home improvement design, universal design provides a means for every member of the family to accomplish daily tasks with a minimum of physical effort. Design is efficient and comfortable, and space accommodations take into account the reach and use of each user regardless of the individual user's size, age, or mobility.

Incorporating universal design principles into your project

If you or a family member has physical disabilities, you have probably given a lot of thought to the types of changes that will make your home more convenient and workable. Even if your family doesn't "need" universal design, the following ideas may still prove useful:

Ultimately, universal design is not about age or ability but about creating a usable design for the broadest number of users. The enhanced functionality doesn't mean you have to compromise aesthetics; many changes can be incorporated in subtle ways to make the building beautiful as well. As a result, your home will offer years of increased utility, comfort, and safety as well as an enhanced market value.

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Find a qualified general contractor to help you bring your universal design ideas to life. UpdateRenovate has specialists in all areas of home improvement.

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