Universal Design

Currently, with the progress in science and modern medicine, our life expectancy is expanded. In the United States the life expectancy of an individual is 77.6 years; in Japan, Monaco and San Marino that number reaches 81 years. Unfortunately, we don’t age in the same shape as when we were in our 20’s or 30’s. Visual impairments, arthritis and back problems, are among the most common problems we face as we age. Also, people of all ages are increasingly confronted with physical challenges from illness or accidents, which limit vision, hearing and movement. The human bio type is changing. The diversity and combination of ethnicity, creeds and customs are growing. All of that brings changes in the way we live and, consequently, in how we use our homes.

Designing a new home or remodel an existing one requires the usage of standard rules and building codes usually prepared for either an average person or a person with disability. Universal Design, as the name implies, is for everyone and not to a specific group. It is the technique used to integrate the rules for both situations, reviewing and adapting one’s particular case, to create a project that fits the needs of anyone in the home despite their particular situation. Universal Design promotes freedom, independence and responsible integration between all the family members. as you can see in the following examples.

"Pull-down accessory for wall cabinet"
The right cabinet insert helps to deal with varying height issues

Let’s imagine a house where the couple Let’s imagine a house where the couple has a big difference in height. The tall person will feel uncomfortable using the bathroom lavatory if the counter top has the standard vanity height. Raise the height of it, total or partial, depends on the layout and partner height, is a simple and effective answer to provide more comfort. In the kitchen, that family member will prefer tall wall cabinets for storage and even, a higher counter. For the shorter person, tall wall cabinets are difficult to access! Depending on who is the main cook in the family, the reduction in height of the wall cabinets may be a solution. Adding an accessory to it, can bring the shelves at closer to counter height, or even the mere inclusion of a folding ladder in the kitchen area, can be a solution.

Someone with visual impairment will feel more comfortable with more lightning in the room. As well as contrasting colors that help to distinguish different work areas. Persons in wheelchairs or, who experience difficulty moving or keeping their balance, require a room with large openings and circulation space. Also, they will need lower counter tops for cooking, eating and using the sink or lavatory. Holding bars on the bathroom and walk-in showers are security features necessary in their homes.

The specification of sustainable products with low emission of polluting gases is also an important option to be considered for the environmentally conscious homeowner; it is a choice that ensures greater comfort and health for those with serious allergic problems.

To be able to identify and understand the diversity of a family, is where a professional can facilitate and expedite the process. Making a list and unreservedly discussing the values that are important to your family in the beginning of any remodel or new home creation process will result in greater satisfaction with the outcome of the project. When you hire professionals to help do your new or renovation project, it is necessary that when you “move in”, you are happy and the new environment is functioning the best way possible.

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