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Remodeling and Home Design

Four Simple Universal Design Solutions

September 10, 2013 / News

Universal design doesn’t have to be all about ramps and stair lifts. It doesn’t even have to be expensive or difficult. Here are four very easy and affordable ways to incorporate universal design elements into your next remodeling project.

Lighting

According to the AARP, our pupils decrease in diameter and become less responsive with age, needing as much as three times more light than younger persons to see shapes and fine details. Design to bring in as much natural light as possible by placing activity areas like breakfasts nooks near large windows. In kitchens, use recessed LED for task areas, pendants over islands, and under- and in-cabinet lights. Use pathway lights to lead the way from one room to another, and place light switches and lamps next to the bed. These changes not only benefit seniors, but small children and adults as well.

Universal Design Kitchen Lighting

Cabinets

As we age, it becomes harder to bend over and pull items out of cabinets. But it’s inconvenient at any age to get down on our hands and knees to hunt for hard-to-reach items. Deep pull-out cabinets, plate inserts and pull-out racks increase accessibility and maximize space. About 50% of a kitchen should be reachable from a seated position for those in wheelchairs, small children and older adults who have trouble reaching high cabinets. Pull-out breadboards are an easy way to “lower” a countertop and provide different counter heights. They also increase usable counter space without permanently affecting the floor plan or traffic flow.

 Universal Design Cabinetry

Flooring

The College of Optometrists found that poor eyesight directly affects falls in older adults. Contrast floor and counter colors, plus make sure they’re level. Examples of flooring are vinyl composite tile, cork, low pile carpet, hardwood with a matte finish and ceramic tile. Make sure flooring is low maintenance, durable, slip-resistant and has “rollability.” It should also be resilient to allow minimal injury from falls. You can also create zero transition points and reduce tripping hazards by taping down rugs.

 universal-design-flooring

Walk-in Shower / Grab Bars

The CDC estimates that 21.8 million people over the age of 15 sustain non-fatal injuries from bathroom falls. High friction–coefficient tiles are less slippery, plus small tiles work better than large ones. A walk-in, zero threshold shower allows wheelchairs, small children and older adults to access the shower area safely. Whether you choose to install them now or later, ask your remodeler to build the proper blocking in the walls for grab bars, creating extra safety for all users. Handheld sprayers are not only accessible for older adults, but they also offer easy options for washing children, pets or cleaning the shower itself.

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