Universal Design Makes Living Easier for Every Age and Ability

Universal Design - Leviton Blog

Have you ever heard the phrase Universal Design?  If you haven’t, chances are you will soon. The U.S. population is aging – every day 10,000 people turn 65 – and with that come some very real concerns about accommodations that are required to help seniors live in the community. One of the greatest challenges is making homes accessible and that’s where the phrase Universal Design comes in.  The Wikipedia definition of Universal Design “refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities.” 

What I like about this definition is that it clearly states Universal Design is beneficial for everyone, regardless of age or ability. But, without question, making modifications to a home that someone has spent generations in, thereby allowing them to “age-in-place,” is extremely important.

Here are some items to consider when modifying a home to be accessible to everyone:

  • Provide at least one no-step entrance to the home
  • Install secure handrails on steps and porches in addition to interior stairs.
  • Front door should have two peepholes – one at standard height and one at 42” to accommodate someone in a wheelchair. 
  • All doors to rooms and closets should be 34” to 36" minimum width
  • Thresholds in doorways should be removed so a person using a wheelchair or walker can more easily maneuver through the home
  • There should be a full bathroom on the first floor with at least a 5’ diameter to accommodate a wheelchair
  • Install grab bars in bathtub and near toilet
  • Light switches should be changed to large rocker-type, preferably illuminated type. They should be located at the entrance of each room, within easy reach, and mounted at 42" height from finished floor to center of switch
  • Install automatic-on night lights in bathrooms and pathway leading from bedrooms to bathrooms. A GFCI/Duplex Guide Light is ideal for added safety in the bathroom.
  • Change all faucets in sinks and tubs to single lever type

grab bars
Install grab bars

Guide lights
GFCI/Duplex Guide Light