Power Lift Chair, Stage 1
Fortunately, accessible design choices are no longer limited to their original "institutional" appearance. Photo courtesy of Lane Home Furnishings
Power Lift Chair, Stage 2
Universal design is usable by all people to the greatest extent possible while remaining aesthetically pleasing. Photo courtesy of Lane Home Furnishings
Power Lift Chair, Stage 3
The bottom line in designing for accessibility? The environment must be comfortable, safe and foster a sense of independence. Photo courtesy of Lane Home Furnishings
Power Lift Chair, Stage 3
7 Principles of Universal Design
Want more info on designing for accessibility? Here are seven principles for universal design:
- Equitable Use: designed for people with diverse abilities.
- Flexibility in Use: accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
- Simple and Intuitive: easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.
- Perceptible Information: communicates necessary information effectively and in multiple modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile).
- Tolerance for Error: minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
- Low Physical Effort: can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
- Size and Space for Approach and Use: Provides appropriate size and space regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.
© Copyright 2008, Center for Universal Design, College of Design, North Carolina State University
The four categories of design that provide accessibility according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) are:
- Universal Design—usable by all people to the greatest extent possible while remaining aesthetically pleasing.
- Accessible Design—enables the greatest possible use of a space by a person with a disability.
- Adaptable Design—although not offering a high level of accessibility, permits a space to be easily altered as needed.
- Visitability—uses an affordable, sustainable and inclusive design approach to integrating basic accessibility features into all newly built homes and housing.
Designing for Accessibility
How to design your home for maximum accessibility now, and in the future.
- by Nancy Christie
Planning ahead isn’t just for financial matters; it’s wise for home design as well. Whether you’re building, renovating or redecorating, these tips will help you address accessibility issues—both existing and future.
Fortunately, accessible design choices are no longer limited to their original "institutional" appearance. Today the options are "more mainstream, more affordable and more appropriate for a beautiful residential construction," says Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD, president of Columbus, Ohio-based Universal Design Living Laboratory, a national demonstration home.
Key Target Areas
As you plan to design your home for accessibility, here are the areas to focus on in each room.
- Install grab bars (with no more than a 1½ inch clearance between the inside of the bar and the wall) to adequately support body weight, says Bill Scott, founder and president of Abilities UNlimited, Inc., a diversities and disabilities issues consulting firm in Phoenix, Ariz. While the weight support guidelines for grab bars can range from 250 to 350 pounds, "this is yet another example where individual need is more relevant than what is called for by the guidelines," he says.
- For wheelchair users or others who are mobility impaired, add toilets with a seat height of 17 to 19 inches, recessed sink cabinets (preferably 36 inches wide) and a "European" or curbless shower.
- Aim for a bed height of 18 to 20 inches—easier for shorter people or those in a wheelchair or walker—and avoid taller or ‘pillow-top’ mattresses.
- Add a lower clothes bar for easy access, and ensure walk-in closets have adequate maneuvering space for turning around and exiting, says Scott.
- Improve usability with front controls on appliances and pull-out shelves. Consider multiple height counters heights—30 inches AFF (above the finished floor) for seated work to 36 inches AFF for standing heights. Also consider including a 30-inch by 48-inch rectangle of cleared floor space in front of major appliances and fixtures, recommends Mary Curley, principal designer with IDI in Seattle, Wash.
- A lowered standard and/ or microwave oven with a shelf or tabletop nearby "is an often overlooked safety feature that may be of benefit for anyone, whether they have a disability or not," says Scott.
You can improve interior visibility with task lights, nightlights, motion sensors and dimmer switches, at room entrances and at bedside or seating areas. Michelle Molloy, of Penates Design in Seattle, Wash., suggests reducing the difference in light levels between spaces, using light-filtering curtains and minimizing shiny surfaces such as glossy tiles or chrome finishes.
For wheelchair access, have at least one level entrance into the home with a 32-inch wide clearance doorway. And follow ADA standards for hallways and circulation areas: at least 48 inches by 36 inches with a turning space of 60 inches, says New York City architect Victoria Benatar. Install handrails on both sides and repair tripping hazards such as uneven areas, loose pavers, potholes or cracks. Flooring transitions should be less than 1/2-inch in height and scatter rugs should be eliminated or affixed to the floor with double-faced tape.
The bottom line in designing for accessibility? Whether renovating or building new, "the environment must be comfortable, safe and foster a sense of independence regardless of age, income or ability level," says Jill Poser, Certified Aging in Place Specialist and Director of Business Development for Italbec U.S. in Dania Beach, Fla. "Think about it as having your home be beautiful and practical to your needs as they emerge."