By Angie Kendel
Many people think of universally accessible design and instantly think it only applies to people with disabilities or the elderly. As a CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) Designer, I am trained to consider physical limitations when planning renovations and design for our projects.
Accessible design is something that applies to everyone. After all, eventually you will need to sell your home. If the housing market is a little more challenging at that time, accessibility features may make your home much more desirable and help it sell much faster. Realtors experience how challenging it can be to find a home with accessible options for their clients.
What exactly is universally accessible design? It is the intentional design that takes into consideration varying degrees of abilities. The goal is to create as much independence as possible for individuals using the space. For example, rather than a twist door knob, a pull down lever is much easier to use. This could help an adult or a child with arthritis. This does not have an impact on the esthetic appeal of a home but will certainly make a home much more user-friendly.
We can incorporate magnetic push and release catches on closet doors or cabinet doors improving accessibility. It has no negative visual impact but becomes much more user friendly for people of all abilities.
Many new builds now have wider hallways, this makes it much easier for someone with a wheelchair or even a walker to independently use the space.
Smart home technology
Smart home technology like Google Home or Amazon Echo are activated by voice command or can be preprogrammed. They can interface with your cell phone to control your lights; heating or air conditioning, your sound system, alarm, or even your Hunter Douglas window coverings. We are a Hunter Douglas dealer and many consumers love the powerview option that interfaces with your iPhone or iPad.
Smart technology is all around us. It is there to help make our lives easier. Many of our window coverings also come with universally accessible design features that make usage easy for people of all abilities. Smart technology could also be used for elderly parents living independently who may be risk of falls. The applications are wide spread and address many safety and comfort concerns.
Another consideration that we often recommend is rather than having multiple floor surfaces with floor joiners, it is so much easier to navigate when the floor is all one level. I met with a client who had MS and was using both a wheelchair and walker. Although her home was all one level, multiple floor surfaces had been used and there were multiple floor joiners. She was having a real challenge negotiating her walker over the floor joiners and had fallen numerous times.
Our daughter is visually impaired. We have continued with the same hardwood flooring throughout so we have no floor joiners. No floor joiner – no tripping or falling hazard.
Another common overlooked area is an entrance door. There are exterior doors with a zero-clearance threshold. The part you step over is at the same level surface as the interior floor rather than having a raised area. Much easier to manage a wheelchair or walker over.
It is also important to consider when adding a sunroom where we often have a threshold – a zero clearance threshold will make it much more accessible for everyone including young children and elderly family members.
Kitchens and bathrooms
Finally, kitchens and bathrooms can have the most impact on how a space can be accommodated. Having a guest bathroom that can accommodate a wheelchair or walker can make a huge difference for your family.
Even if you do not have a member in the household with mobility issues, what about extended family or friends. We often hear how it is so refreshing for extended family members to be included in celebrations because a home is accessible for them.
Having a shower that does not have an edge to step over but has a floor drain and a floor that is all one level can have a huge impact for an elderly parent that must give up their independence and move in with an adult child. Many of the showers we install now have this feature.
Sinks can have space for a wheelchair to fit below for easy access and of course we are all familiar with the many grab bar options.
Accessible design planning
Planning accessible design is an enhancement to your home that makes your home stand out from others. If you are planning on staying in your home for many years, incorporating accessible design principles into your current renovation may just allow you to remain in your home that much longer years from now.
Check out our website at www.maximumimpactplus.com or www.katreno.com for more ideas or come visit us at the Home and Garden Show April 5 – 8.