What is Universal Design?

Does Your Remodeler Offer Universal Design?

Universal Design has nothing to do with futuristic projections of life in outer space. But it does have to do with the future and interior space. Universal Design is a remodeling philosophy that focuses on human ergonomics and making homes and buildings usable for everyone regardless of ability, size, or age.

According to a 2017 article in the New York Times, older people have the highest rate of homeownership in the country, yet less than 4 percent of U.S. housing has all three of the most important accessibility features: entrances without steps, single-floor layouts, and walkways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. 

Though it’s an important service, very few people look forward to moving into an assisted care home. So, how do remodelers help a population that increasingly wants to stay home? They tackle the problem head-on – highlighting and correcting how standard home design inhibits access for people with limited mobility.

The History of Disability-Specific Design

Driven by major medical advances that increased life expectancy for those suffering from severe impairments, as well as the influx of WWII soldiers being sent home with disabling injuries, the twentieth-century ushered in new laws designed to reduce discrimination and increase social inclusion.

The shift had a significant effect on building design, urging designers to incorporate accessibility into the design of everything from products and services to indoor and outdoor environments. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s when the more widely recognized concept of accessibility emerged. Only then did the field of assistive technology and design become readily available to the general public.

In 2005, The Disability Act defined Universal Design as “The design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood, and used.”

Accessibility for Every Age, Ability, and Size

Though a large majority of UD work is done for the elderly, the mission of the movement is to create safe living environments for infants, toddlers, people with disabilities, and people suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and any other condition that makes functioning within standard building design a challenge.

Most people don’t realize how inaccessible their homes are until they break a limb or have to move around in a wheelchair. Suddenly something as benign as carpeting can become a hazard. UD remodelers install features like bare floors, comfort height toilets, door levers, fixed shower heads with handheld controls, 36″ doorways, lowered countertops, grab bars, and ramps.

Cleaning up the “clinical” element

It’s a common misconception that Universal Design turns nice homes into veritable health clinics. In fact, the mission of remodelers who specialize in these types of upgrades is to change the language around accessibility. Universal Design Certified Professionals are trained in blending universally appealing design features with universal accessibility. By avoiding terms like “geriatric”, “handicap”, and “ADA”, homeowners are more open to things like “support materials” that are made to integrate with ordinary architectural elements.

Many certified Salem remodelers even dream of a future where the term “Universal Design” is unnecessary; that every home will come standard with both accessibility and energy efficiency.

Read on to find out how a remodeler differs from a general contractor and which offers the best services for your next home improvement project.

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