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Universal Home Design: What Does It Mean?

August 7th, 2023 |

Universal home design makes a home more comfortable and accessible for everyone, regardless of age or mobility issues. Aging in place has become an especially important concept as the so-called “Baby Boomers” retire. Consider incorporating universal design elements if you plan to remodel your home or investment property.

Accessible Entrances and Exits

Entrances and exits, whether interior or exterior, should be easy and safe. Doorways should be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. A bench next to the entrance makes bringing groceries or packages easier.  

Railings are an important safety feature and should be included with all steps and staircases. Ideally, entrances should have no steps. You can, however, replace outdoor steps with ramps.  

Additional Lighting 

Pathways and hallways can become hazardous in dim light. Make sure indoor and outdoor walkways have adequate lighting. Consider installing skylights or additional windows to increase interior natural light. In hallways, add nightlights that turn on when indoor light becomes dim. Motion-sensitive outdoor lighting helps make entering and exiting safer and easier. 

Easy-to-Use Handles and Switches 

Operating door knobs and toggle switches can be difficult for people with limited strength. Door handles, light switches, and faucets should be easy to use. For example, you can replace toggle light switches with illuminated rocker switches pushed with an elbow or wrist. Install lever-style handles on doors and faucets for easy operation.  

Bathroom Safety Features

Unsurprisingly, most falls in the home occur in the bathroom. Wet bathroom floors are an especially common slip hazard. Many materials and features are available to make the bathroom a safer place, from textured flooring to grab bars.  

Universal home design elements can make bathroom fixtures accessible to people with limited mobility. For example, a shower bench or walk-in tub can help reduce the risk of falling. A wall-mounted toilet makes sitting down and standing up less hazardous than a lower, floor-mounted toilet.

User-Friendly Kitchen 

Many kitchen tasks, such as washing dishes and chopping vegetables, are easier to complete while sitting. Install low countertops and sinks and replace the island with a table to help create an accessible kitchen. On the other hand, some people may prefer to stand on a higher countertop to avoid bending over. Other features, like pull-out cutting boards and lever-style faucets, make a kitchen more user-friendly. 

Helpful Technology  

Simple tasks such as making a phone call or setting a thermostat can become more difficult as we age or live with mobility issues. These days, a variety of technologies are available that can make home life easier and safer for everyone. Some devices, for example, allow monitoring of older or more vulnerable occupants. Other technologies make using phones, locks, thermostats, and other important devices easier.

Is your Boston-area home or investment property safe and accessible for all ages and abilities? Let the experienced general contracting professionals at RH Blanchard help with your universal home design project. Contact us today to request your free quote.