What is Universal Design?

It’s basically a home designed and setup to function and be accessible to anyone of any age, regardless of difficulties or disabilities with vision or mobility. The concept was introduced in the 1950s.

In 1992, the Americans with Disabilities Act required that all public buildings be reasonably renovated to accommodate people with disabilities. As the baby boomers enter their golden years, they’ve begun embracing the idea of universal design in residential homes, too.

The most obvious design example is a single level home with no steps to enter or inside. Other examples include proper lighting and no-glare surfaces. Everyone is familiar with grab bars, and to take it a step further in making the bathroom safe and functional for all, universal design concepts incorporate lipless showers, wider hallways, and doorways to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. My downsizing clients are seeking homes with easy access coming and going from both the front door and the garage.

Drawers, storage, and appliances at the proper level is another adjustment that can be made to avoid deep bending or reaching. For instance, I’ve worked with clients who are coming back from hip surgery and are instructed to avoid bending more than 90 degrees as they heal.

Owners who consider their current home to be their forever home should consider incorporating universal design upgrades that will allow them to manage if mobility becomes more challenging. My brother and sister-in-law are completing a major remodel in their Lafayette, CA home and are considering all these issues as they plan to age in place.

Even younger homeowners may consider adding some aspects of universal design if an elderly or disabled family member moves in. Adding universal design elements can add value when selling your home.