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Facts About Universal Design

Some cities have adopted universal design mandates and they all carry various requirements.

Besides Pima County, a southern Arizona county that includes Tucson, there are four states and six cities that have adopted various universal design mandates, even though they apply only to publicly funded housing. They are


  • Atlanta
  • Austin, Texas
  • Urbana, Ill.
  • Naperville, Ill.
  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Long Beach, Calif.
  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Kansas

Examples of universal design requirements:

  • The ground floor must have one accessible route, at least 32 inches wide, through the entire floor, which cannot pass through bedrooms or closets.
  • There must be at least one no-step entry to the house, whether in the front, back or garage.
  • The entry should be at least 32 inches wide.
  • Interior doors must be at least 30 inches wide.
  • Door hardware, such as levers, cannot require any grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate.
  • Bathroom walls must be reinforced for the option of adding grab bars.
  • Light controls, electrical outlets and thermostats must be easily reached from a wheelchair.

—Source: Pima County Board of Supervisors

Other universal design features that are being used voluntarily in some new home construction, primarily in developments marketed to people over 50:

  • Full bath and master bedroom on the main level
  • Windows that can be opened with minimal effort
  • Covered porches
  • Wider hallways and interior doorways
  • Lower kitchen cabinets with roll-out and pull-down shelving
  • Multi-level counters in the kitchen
  • Extra lighting, especially in bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Raised toilets
  • Non-slip floors
  • Laundry chutes
  • Landscaped ramps to the front entrance
  • Raised garden beds that are reachable from a wheelchair
  • No-threshold, large showers with either built-in steps or stools
  • Front-loading washer and dryer

—Source: National Association of Homebuilders.

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