Remodeling With Universal Design in Mind

Learn how to create a room that will last through many years and many needs
Green Kitchen with Bench and Chair Seating

Universal Design Kitchen

Universal Design is making environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

Photo by: Gale Steves

Gale Steves

Ideally, your remodeling project will last through the ages and function well for many types of people. It should accommodate your needs and appeal to future buyers. It should fulfill your requirements today, and as you and other household members age. Whether it's incorporating adjustable countertops in the kitchen or stylish handle bars in the bathroom, learn how to apply Universal Design principles in your renovation.

By definition, Universal Design is the making of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Universal design in its broadest sense is the practice of architectural planning to produce environments that are accessible to everyone. This means designing a room that is functional for an able-bodied homeowner, an aging individual, and a person who has special needs because of physical limitations.

When you remodel a kitchen using Universal Design, you are creating a kitchen that children can enjoy with their grandparents. As you consider designs, think about adding features that cater to any age and physical ability.

When remodeling a room in your home, keep in mind these seven principles of Universal Design:

  1. Equitable Use. Provide the same means for use for all users: Identical whenever possible. Equivalent when not. Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users. Provisions for privacy, security and safety should be equally available to all users. Make the design appealing to all users.
  2. Flexibility in Use. Provide choice in methods of use. Accommodate right-handed or left-handed access and use. Facilitate the user’s accuracy and precision. Provide adaptability to the user’s pace.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use. Eliminate unnecessary complexity. Be consistent with user expectations and institution. Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills. Arrange information consistent with its importance. Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.
  4. Perceptible Information. Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information. Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings. Maximize “legibility” of essential information. Differentiate elements in ways that can be described. Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.
  5. Tolerance for Error. Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated or shielded. Provide warnings of hazards and errors. Provide fail-safe features. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.
  6. Low Physical Effort. Allow user to maintain neutral body position. Use reasonable operating forces. Minimize responsive actions. Minimize sustained physical effort.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use. Provide a clear line of sight to important elements from any seated or standing user. Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user. Accommodate variations in hand and grip size. Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.

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