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
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.