Designing for Inclusivity: Creating Universally Usable Living Spaces
I may be a bit biased but I think more of us need to be educating our peers and the general public about the real need for spaces designed to be usable by the greatest number of people with the least requirement for adaptation. The terms Universal Design and Accessible Design are rapidly being replaced with more politically correct terms that don’t emphasize disability.
These designs, when done appropriately, are safer for everybody using them from toddlers to the elderly and do not call attention to the fact they are designed so the most people can benefit. Falls in the home top the list for injury related deaths in all age groups with greater percentages in the very young and the very old. This, alone should give some credence to the need for more usable living spaces.
While these types of design have focused in the past on being “wheelchair accessible”, we now focus on usability by everybody. They may not be “wheelchair accessible” but are usable by wheelchair users for example. A counter that is wheelchair accessible would have a space below that a wheelchair could roll under but a little lower counter top can be used by rolling alongside or a pull-out board like the old cutting boards could be very useful and not be an obvious adaptation. A main floor bath with reinforcement in the walls in case grab bars are ever needed; halls wide enough two people can pass without stepping into a doorway (which needs to be wide enough to walk through with your basket of laundry). These are simple things that do not add appreciably to the final cost of home but add so much to both the aesthetic and the usability.
Zero-elevation entrances with wider doors are easier for Mom to roll her toddler into the house in the stroller or the deliveryman to bring in the new refrigerator without taking the doors off and the ramp can be incorporated into the landscaping in such a way that it doesn’t advertise to the more nefarious amongst us that a person with limited mobility lives here.