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Make your new home more accessible with universal design

November 5, 2015

Building a new home, versus buying a resale, gives you many advantages. You can customize the layout to your personal taste, incorporate energy-efficient throughout, and move into a home that is fully warrantied. Another distinct advantage of choosing a new home is that you can incorporate universal design. Also known as “barrier-free design”, this thoughtful approach accommodates details that make your home accessible to anyone. Households with elderly or disabled family members experience challenges that others haven’t considered. Whether you need extra space to maneuver a wheelchair or single-story living to avoid climbing stairs, there are many details that can be easily built into your new home, like wider hallways and doorways, lower countertops and sinks, and ramp access. Universal design removes barriers and creates free flow throughout the home, for anyone. The goal is to provide functionality, comfort, and convenience, so that no member feels challenged in their own home. Even if you don’t have the immediate need for universal design features, ask yourself if this new home is where you want to stay. “Aging in place” is a concept that reflects the Baby Boomers’ lifestyle trend of staying in the same house beyond retirement, instead of downsizing to accommodate life changes. Talk to your home builder about adding these universal design features to your new home:
  • 5-foot clearance space in hallways and 36-inch wide doors
  • Gentle sloping walkway to all entrances
  • Touch lights or rocker switches instead of traditional toggle switches, and placed at the same height as the door handle
  • Walk-in tubs or step-in showers with no threshold (with wider doors) and grab bars and adjustable height shower head
  • Front-loading washer and dryer
  • Ovens and cooktops with controls on the front
  • Bathroom vanities with knee space underneath
  • Lever-style door handles instead of knobs
  • Even floor height, with no thresholds
  • Closets with adjustable rods and racks
  • Kitchen cabinets with varied heights
  • Slip- and trip-resistant flooring
  • Motion light sensors
  • Anti-scald valves
Universaldesign.org provides 10 checklists that cover every space of your home. Most of the universal design features are easy to integrate when building your home. Discuss these adaptations with your builder so you can enjoy many years of comfort in your home.

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