Make It Easier with Universal Design
Do you know what Universal Design is, and why it’s important to consider using in your upcoming remodel or design-build? Universal Design is defined as the creation of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. We’re never aware of the need for it until we’re in some way disabled (for at least a period of time.) I can recall a few years ago when I broke my pelvis: suddenly the toilet was too low, the bed was too high and I needed a tub seat so I could take a shower even with help getting into or out of the tub!
The authors*, (a group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers,) collaborated to establish the following Principles of Universal Design back in 1997 to guide a wide range of design disciplines including environments, products, and communications. These seven principles may still be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.
It’s often people’s thought process that “That’s never going to happen to me,” regarding an injury or disability due to illness. “Why spend money on products that you’re never going to need or use?” Keep in mind that no one plans an accident or illness, but they happen every day to people just like you and me. A whopping 14% of the population is disabled in some way, and only 4% of that group have disabilities that are visually apparent.
We all have experienced some Universal Design in public buildings and locations, whether it’s automatic doors that open and close, accommodations for wheel chairs and walkers at sports arenas, or a moving sidewalk or escalator that accommodates all people. But why might we consider these adaptations in our own home? Actually, we already have some. Here are some you have, plus more ideas for your consideration.
Principle 1: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
Photo credit: SignatureFaucets.com
Photo credit: residentialproductsonline.com
Photo credit: https://pro.villeroy-boch.com/us/
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
Almost everyone has gone to the door handle above, rather than installing the traditional knobs- much easier to use for the vast majority. Photo credit: dull.com
Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility
Principles of Universal Design address only functional design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability. Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes. If you would like more considerations for universal design, write back with your thoughts, ideas or pictures below. You can also give me a call and we’ll discuss your project. I’d love to hear from you! Want more ideas on ways you can make small, affordable changes for a time when you or a family member needs that extra help due to a skiing accident, a car accident, or an illness/health condition? Contact us through this website to chat about your project and how you might include more Universal Design in your home.
*Authors: Bettye Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story, and Gregg Vanderheiden worked together at North Carolina State University