Universal Design Makes “Cents”

Moving or remodeling are not only expensive, they are extremely disruptive. Families get established in their neighborhood, children don’t want to leave their friends, and the elderly want to” age-in-place”. Unless a change in employment necessitates a move, most people would rather stay in their home, especially now that the downward spiral in real estate values has made it impossible for millions of people to sell their home.

Unfortunately,  the inevitability of changing needs is making it necessary for millions of people to leave their home. Our population is aging and yet we keep building homes that are neither  accessible nor adaptable.

We’ve also seen a large increase in the number of multi-generational families where elderly parents move in with their children and grandchildren, therefore making it necessary inevitability  make alterations to accommodate the varied needs of each age group.

Why then do we continue to build houses that have to be taken apart as needs change?

If we build homes based on universal design principles, we increase the supply of housing suitable for the elderly and we increase the value of our homes because “universal” homes are suitable for everyone.  From a marketing point of view we increase the pool of potential buyers for our homes. People with special needs can purchase our “universal” homes and, with minor modifications, make them fully accessible, safe, and functional for everyone

Concrete Change, which promotes the concept of “visitability” has published an in-depth study of the cost of adding universal design features to new construction. Visit them at:


remember:  Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow

Andrée Langlois



Excellent article written by Meg McConahey of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat


<p><a href=”http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20120224/LIFESTYLE/120229836/1309/lifestyle?Title=Home-design-changing-with-the-times-&amp;tc=ar” title=”Design for the Ages”>Design for the Ages</a></p>

Universal Design Makes Sense

I went to a luncheon at a friend’s house last week and got involved into a discussion about remodeling. These ladies have lived in their homes for decades and are now looking forward to remodeling and redecorating for themselves. The kids are all gone and they plan on staying in their homes for as long as they can. As you might expect, I got involved in a discussion about universal design. Ask me a question and I hope you want to hear what I have to say. Universal design is my passion and I feel so strongly about the logic of applying it to all interior design that it’s hard for me to understand the objections and resistance from those who would prefer to ignore the fact that they may someday need to live in a more supportive environment.

The challenge was to make them understand that whether or not they ever need accessible features, universal design makes sense. Universal design is about eliminating physical barriers and planning for changing needs; it is flexible and adaptable for every stage of life, for people with varying needs and abilities such as wider hallways, level floor transitions and multilevel work surfaces – all without sacrificing beauty. Universal design is integrated at the conceptual stage and you should not be able to notice any difference from a conventionally designed home unless the occupant is actually disabled and requires safety features such as grab bars. Universal design supports aging in place as well as multi-generational families living in the same home.

Universal design not only makes sense, it makes “cents”. I’ll address the economic benefits of universal design in my next blog. Until then remember:

Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow

Andrée Langlois

Accessibility in Design is Essential

I’m teaching Barrier-Free Design at our local Junior College. This is an advanced class that is required for the certificate in interior design. I teach ADA, California Accessibility Code, and universal design. My students are very accomplished and anxious to graduate and work in their chosen field.

Our first day of class included a campus tour using wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. It was quite an experience for all these able-bodied students to navigate obstacles they had never noticed before. They had to make their way over cracked pathways, curbs with truncated domes that are useful to the sight-impaired but difficult to get through with a wheelchair or walking aids, cross slopes and steep ramps, compliant but hard-to-use restrooms, and groups of rushing students making their way around them. While our campus is mostly code compliant and very accessible, the reality is that being physically disabled presents a lot of challenges and can make life very difficult.

The reports the students wrote were amazingly insightful and compassionate and I found myself so looking forward to the next class because I knew that THEY GOT IT! They are now hungry for the knowledge that they can apply in their design work to the benefit of their clients. They understand that interior designers can greatly improve the quality of life of their clients. They get the meaning of

Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow


Preview of the Residential Universal Design Guide, a Manual for Architects, Interior Designers, and Builders

While I was teaching Barrier-Free Design at Santa Rosa Junior College, I did extensive research and study of published books, articles, and information available online. To my dismay I found that there wasn’t a comprehensive list of specific universal design standards. I found a lot of good information but was frustrated by vague recommendations such as “accessible sink” or “enough space for a wheelchair”. My students were asking what makes a sink accessible? and how much space is enough for wheelchair turn around and functionality?

I wrote the Residential Universal Design Guide, a Manual for Architects, Interior Designers, and Builders to fill the gap and provide a single source of technical information to aid in the design of universal living spaces. “The Guide” is a set of specific guidelines and standards that can be applied to residential design. It is a menu of options that can be used in the evaluation of a home or in the planning of new construction. It is useful to educators and students of interior design, to design professionals, and to homeowners and builders. “The Guide” is formatted as an easy-to-use checklist that is downloadable and that can be reprinted as needed.

The Residential Universal Design Guide, a Manual for Architects, Interior Designers, and Builders is now a required text in the interior design program at Canada College in Redwood City, California.

Preview a sample page of the PDF version which is available for download here at the price of $14.95.

Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow

Andrée Langlois

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Differences between ADA and Universal Design

I frequently get asked if The American with Disabilities Act and universal design are the same. The confusion is very understandable given that both address the needs of people with disabilities.

However, there is a great difference in that the ADA is a civil rights law that was signed into law by President George H. Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA is an enforceable mandate of accessibility standards that are published by the Department of Justice in the Federal Register and that apply to places of public accommodations, organizations that receive federal funding, state and local government facilities, and multi-family dwellings. The ADA does not apply to single-family housing. Furthermore, the ADA addresses the needs of a narrow group of people with disabilities, mainly those with restricted mobility,  hearing and vision impairment.

On the other hand, universal design is voluntary and is left to the discretion of developers, planners, builders, architects, designers, and homeowners. While the principles of universal design are usually associated with residential projects, they can also be applied to interior and exterior spaces where the ADA is also mandated.

In the context of interior design and architecture, universal design means that spaces must be usable by all, including children, adults, the elderly, and the physically challenged.

ADA compliant design is not universal but universal design is accessible and usable by all.

Designers should strive to include as many universal design features as possible in every design project.


Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow.

Andrée Langlois

Kitchen Remodeling

I attended a meeting at someone’s house last week and kept my lips tightly zipped while everyone was gushing over the recent kitchen remodel. Don’t get me wrong, the kitchen is beautiful, from the custom kitchen cabinets, quartz countertops, high quality stainless steel appliances and elegant Brazilian cherry floors. So what is there to criticize?

Our hostess and her husband are in their mid-to-late sixties and plan on staying in their home for the rest of their lives. As a specialist in accessibility and a strong proponent of universal design, I was struck by the lack of forethought in the planning and use of the space which won’t accommodate a person with special needs. Whether due to aging or accidents, most of us have to face physical limitations at some point in our lives.

It wouldn’t have cost anything more to have countertops at different heights,  appliances that could safely be used by a seated person, install the appliances at proper heights and allow enough floor space for wheelchair manoeuverability. Assuming no accidents, that gorgeous kitchen has a limited usability lifespan. It will take nothing short of a complete and very expensive remodel to make that kitchen usable by a person with physical limitations.

We all want to age in place but this will only be possible with good interior design by a professional who has in-depth knowledge of accessible and universal design.


Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow.

Andrée Langlois

I wrote The Residential Universal Design Guide, A Standards Manual for Architects, Interior Designers, and Builders as an easy-to-use time-saver checklist to help in the planning, evaluation, and implementation of universal design. The Guide is a  checklist of 285 design standards that can be applied to residential construction. The Guide is not a code book and the user needs to check all applicable building codes.

The Guide is available in PDF format for $24.95 and allows the original purchaser to print copies as needed. To purchase, click the ADD TO CART button below.

Unconditional satisfaction guaranteed or your money back

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Residential Universal Design Guide, A Standards Manual for Architects, Interior Designers, and Builders

The goal of universal design is to design a home that will be safe, comfortable, and functional for all, including children, adults, the elderly, and the physically challenged. The universal home can be adapted to special needs without major and costly modifications if and when the need arises; it will withstand the test of time and serve the needs of several generations living under the same roof over a lifespan.

There are no code books for universal design. Therefore, the decisions as to which features to include are left up to the architect, interior designer, builder, and homeowner and requires extensive research to determine the applicable design standards for each feature of a home.

I wrote The Residential Universal Design Guide, A Standards Manual for Architects, Interior Designers, and Builders as an easy-to-use time-saver checklist to help in the planning, evaluation, and implementation of universal design.

“The Guide” is a menu of 285 universal design guidelines and 18 graphics that allows the designer to choose the standards that are applicable to a specific design project. “The Guide” is  formatted as a checklist and divided into sections and sub-sections so that the designer can conduct a walk-through evaluation and plan from the outdoor access, through the living areas, the bedroom and bathroom, and finally, to the patio and garden. The Guide gives very specific standards and measurements to assist the designer in executing a design based on anthropometric measurements. The Guide also includes the minimum design standards that are required to make a home visitable. A section on green building interior materials specifications gives recommendations on the selection of paints, wood finishes, wood products, adhesives, ventilation of appliances, wood stoves, and flooring.

All measurements are indicated in both imperial and metric measurements. Please note that metric conversions may need slight adjustments to meet individual countries’ building codes and standard measurements.

The Guide fills a need for architects, interior designers, home builders, design educators, design students, and homeowners.

The Guide is not a code book and the user needs to check all applicable building codes.

The Guide is available in PDF format for $14.95 and allows the original purchaser to print copies as needed. “The Guide” is copyrighted and each page is printed with the purchaser’s information.

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Discount Code: 20% discount available to educators and students. Please email confirmation of design school affiliation or enrollment to andree@IDAssociates.biz. and a discount code will be emailed to you.

What is Green Design?

Green design creates more comfortable and healthier places to
work and live in. Specifying materials and finishes with no –
or low VOC, low formaldehyde present in furniture, flooring,
and proper ventilation system, improves the quality of our
indoor environment. Using efficient fixtures and
appliances make water and electricity more affordable. Green
design gives consumers economic, health and safety benefits,
higher property values, while reducing negative impact on the

Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow.

Elsa Torres

What is Universal Design?

Universal Design is the design of homes that supports multi-
generational living arrangements that offer full and equal access,
flexibility, adaptability, safety, mobility, and full enjoyment for
all over a lifetime. It takes lifestyle into consideration and allows
individuals to live in a home that supports their changing needs.
Universal Design incorporates slightly more square footage than
standard housing, thus providing usability and mobility for all,
regardless of age, ability, or disability. It allows the integration
of features to accommodate for special needs without major
modifications or renovation.

Universal design should be the norm in all homes.

Good Design Today, Better Living Tomorrow

Andrée Langlois