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Universal Design Fits Everyone’s Needs

12 Oct 2018 1:45 PM | Sandy Griffis (Administrator)
Originally Published: October 10, 2018 7:49 p.m.

We were out the other evening and heard the term universal design being discussed at a table. What exactly is universal design? Thank you for enlightening and educating us. We assume it has something to do with “the golden years” which is where we are — 85 and 87. — Ed and Rosie, Prescott.

Universal design is related to aging-in-place remodeling and was developed to address the growing number of consumers who will soon require these modifications for the golden years. 

Everyone can use universal design! It really does not matter if you are young or old. You could be short or tall, healthy or ill. You might have a disability. Or you may be a prize-winning athlete. Because of universal design, people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. And that home will be there for all its inhabitants even when their needs change.

Here are some of the more common universal design features that are also incorporated into aging-in-place remodels:

No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home’s main rooms.

One-story living. Places to eat, use of the bathroom and sleeping areas are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.

Wider doorways. Doorways that are 32 to 36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it much easier to move larger household items in and out of the house.

Wider hallways. Hallways should be 36 to 42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything is able to move more easily from room to room.

Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.

Some universal design features just make good sense. For example:

Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They’re not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.

Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway. 

Good high quality lighting helps people with poor vision. 

Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. I have lever door handles in my home and what a convenience when my arms are full of packages. Never again will I have knobs on any of my doors!

Simply put, Universal Design is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation. It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation. 

Locally in the industry we are seeing more Universal Design features in new homes. Universal Design can increase usability of the home without considerably increasing its cost by reducing the need for design modifications later when abilities or circumstances change.


Here is a little fun part of our column this week. You all know that your home is probably the largest investment you will ever make. Taking good care of it with regular maintenance is necessary to maintain its value and ensure it will provide a comfortable, safe shelter for you and your family for a long time.

Here is a home maintenance quiz that will test your maintenance knowledge. While this quiz does not address every home maintenance project, it does provide helpful tips and reminders for chores you may have overlooked.

1) How often do forced-air furnace filters need to be changed?
At least every three months during the heating season.

2) What part of the faucet usually needs to be replaced when you have a water leak?
The washer.

3) Should you run hot or cold water through your garbage disposal?
Cold water.

4) How often should the moving parts of garage doors be oiled?
At least every six months.

5) What faucet part needs to be cleaned every three to four months?
Aerator — the screen inside the end of the faucet.

6) What can you use for traction on icy sidewalks, steps and driveways?
Cat litter or sand — never use salt because it damages the pavement.

7) Where should your firewood be stored?
Outside, away from your house and not directly on the ground.

8) Do hardwood floors need to be waxed?
Hardwood floors that do not have a polyurethane finish probably will need to be waxed periodically. Use liquid or paste “spirit” wax.

9) What is the best polish for vinyl floors?
Water emulsion wax.

10) How often should your roof be inspected?
A qualified roofer should inspect your roof every two - three years.

11) To ensure your safety, what household equipment uses batteries that must be checked regularly to make sure they are operable?
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

12) What is the white powdery substance that develops on masonry walls?
Efflorescence sometimes appears on masonry walls. It is crystallized soluble salts that can be removed by scrubbing with water and a stiff brush.

13) At what temperature should your water heater be set?
120 degrees Fahrenheit

14) How often do skylights need to be inspected?
Skylights should be inspected each time your roof is inspected so leaks don’t develop from cracks and interruptions around its seals, caulking and flashings.

15) What can you use to help a window slide easily?
Rub the channel with a piece of paraffin.


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