Universal Design Tips


At Rebuilding Together OKC, our mission is to improve the lives of senior citizens by providing free home remodels and safety modifications.  As clients age, they need homes more specifically tailored to their changing health and lifestyle.  Our goal is to make updates that allow elderly homeowners to remain independent in their homes.

Last week, the Woodworking Network put out an amazing press release titled “Universal Design is Smart Design.”1  The term “universal design” was coined by the architect Ronald L. Mace to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.2

The press release notes four areas of universal design that can be helpful for anyone when modifying a home for a senior neighbor, family member or friend.

•Zero barriers, which mean there are no steps in the home, especially for entryways. All living quarters are on the first floor, with the exception of an upstairs area that was converted into an apartment with the purpose of housing a caregiver at some point.

•Wide hallways, open living spaces and dual entries in all rooms are common design elements used in wheelchair accessibility. Also, two entryways in all rooms—including the living room, dining room and kitchen—allows for ample traffic flow throughout the house.

•Microwaves drawer and/or refrigeration drawers are also common in universal design, but Long says it is also a stylistic feature.

•Hardwood flooring is superior over carpeting for wheelchair accessibility. The new flooring also allowed for a five zone, energy-efficient radiant heating system throughout the house, which couldn’t have been accomplished with carpeting.

1. http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/wood-market-trends/woodworking-industry-trends-press-releases/Universal-design-is-smart-design-212048341.html?ref=341#sthash.FniDNBtU.lw8n8Jsk.dpuf
2. From http://design.ncsu.edu/alumni-friends/alumni-profiles/ronald-mace