For more information, visit the Ohio Department of Aging web site at:
and Ohio State University Extension's "Aging in Ohio" web site at: http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~seniors/
Author: Christine A. Price, OSU Extension State Specialist, Gerontology, Department of Human Development and Family Science.
Universal Design is a worldwide movement that is based on the idea that all environments and products should be usable by all people, regardless of their ages, sizes, or abilities. Because this movement applies to everyone, the concept of Universal Design is known around the world as "design for all," "inclusive design," and "life-span design."
An important component of Universal Design is the maintenance of aesthetics. In other words, to create something that is still "visually pleasing" to others despite being accessible to everyone. Function does NOT have to sacrifice beauty. As a result, universally designed homes and public buildings can be just as beautiful and welcoming as any other design approach. Increasingly, experts are referring to the concept of Universal Design as the "wave of the future." It is the hope of Universal Design advocates that eventually all buildings, homes, and products will be designed to meet the needs of everyone.
Whether you are building a new home, or repairing or renovating an existing home, you too can incorporate, through home modification, characteristics of Universal Design. Home modification can vary from building a new home with universally designed features, to simple installation of lever door knobs on an older home to more complex structural changes in an existing home, such as installing a walk-in shower or an accessible ramp. The goal of home modification for existing homes is not to entirely redesign the home but to make a range of changes or repairs that result in your home being a comfortable, user-friendly, and safer place to live.
Implementing Universal Design home modifications can result in a home that you can remain in as you age. This concept is often referred to as "aging in place." The idea behind "aging in place" is to enable individuals to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. The goal is to avoid having to relocate simply because one's home is too difficult to get around in.
A group of Universal Design advocates1 from the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University developed seven principles of Universal Design. These principles can be applied to evaluate existing environments or products, serve as guidelines in the development or renovation of existing environments, and serve to educate consumers and professionals wanting to understand the characteristics of this design approach.
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.
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions of 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.
Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.
The American Association of Retired Persons provides a list of common challenges individuals encounter and some universal design features that may serve as possible solutions (www.aarp.org/universalhome/solutions.html). Below are some examples:
Limited Lifting or Flexibility
Remember, a home that has universal design features is a home that fits everyone's needs, whether they are young or old, short or tall, with physical limitations or without.
Contact the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) for publications on how to modify your home. Some examples of helpful publications available from the AARP free of charge include:
Home Solutions: Options to Meet Changing Needs (D17044)
The Do Able Renewable Home: Making Your Home Fit Your Needs (D12470)
Universal Design and Home Modification (D16691)
How Well Does Your Home Meet Your Needs? (D16427)
Contact AARP at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-424-3410 or mail your request to AARP, 601 E St., NW, Washington, DC 20049
AARP Universal Design Home Modification: www.aarp.org/universalhome/
Adaptive Environments Center, Inc.Universal Design: http://www.adaptenv.org/universal/
Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University: www.design.ncsu.edu/cud
1 Listed in alphabetical order: Betty Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story & Gregg Vanderheiden.
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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.
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