Monthly Archives: August 2011

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