How Can Universal Design Benefit You? Universal Design Perks

Truehold General Manager and Occupational Therapist Realtor, Gretchen Kingma, recently weighed in on current trends in universal design and its benefits.

Retirement + Aging in Place
April 21, 2022
How Can Universal Design Benefit You? Universal Design Perks
A remodeled kitchen

What if you built your home to maximize the capabilities of every individual who entered it or used its amenities, no matter their age or personal constraints?

In your hypothetical home, your elementary-aged daughter can easily open your patio door. Your parents can use your shower without the fear of slipping. Your color-blind sibling can quickly spot your house numbers when driving down your road.

This sweeping accessibility is the driver behind universal design, a type of design that is usable by people of all ages and all abilities.

This type of design might still sound abstract, but don't worry – Truehold will provide you with the goals and benefits of applying universal design principles in your home. We’ll show you how to begin incorporating universal design concepts in your personal spaces to maximize the comforts of home. (Hint: it doesn't necessarily demand a high budget!)

First, let's get a closer look at universal design and how it can bolster your home's usability.

What is Universal Design in Housing?

According to the Center for Universal Design (CUD), universal design is a type of product and environment design that makes homes accessible and functional for all people, to the greatest extent possible, and without adaptation or specialized design. 

Universal design strives for inclusivity; designers who prioritize universal design create living environments that are respectful and considerate to people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

Additionally, the creators of universal design intended for this framework to be amenable  to your needs and the needs of others who live in or visit your home. Rather than being used as a rulebook, architects, engineers, and product designers can customize your home to suit your unique needs. You do not need to create a universally-designed space the way someone else did, nor do you need a white-collar budget to afford universal design. 

Universal design is not the same as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While both operate in the domain of at-home accessibility, the ADA provides guidelines for commercial entities to make spaces accessible to people with disabilities in more public realms. 

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How Can Universal Design Benefit You?

Incorporating universal design principles into your home, its products, and its spaces offer a variety of benefits. 

Universal design…

  • Creates inclusive design solutions that fit your personal needs and the needs of your family members.
  • Promotes accessibility within your home.
  • Defies segregation and stigma, helping those with a wide range of capabilities who visit your home feel comfortable using your home and its amenities.
  • Allows every person to remain as independent as possible, despite any constraints or deemed "disabilities".
  • Promotes equality and helps you participate in society, despite any unique hindrances that you might possess.

The 8 Goals of Universal Home Design

According to educators at the University of Buffalo, universal design has eight main goals:

  1. Body fit: Your home is suitable for and fits various body sizes and abilities. 
  2. Comfort: Your home and its amenities' demands are within reasonable and desirable limits of body function and perception.
  3. Awareness: Your home communicates and presents critical information in an easy-to-perceive way.
  4. Understanding: Your home makes its amenities' methods of operation clear and intuitive.
  5. Wellness: Your home contributes to the safety and health of all users.
  6. Social integration: Your home's design aims to treat all groups of people and users with equal dignity and respect.
  7. Personalization: Your home design incorporates your needs while emphasizing your ability to express your individual preferences.
  8. Cultural appropriateness: Your home respects your cultural values and the cultural values of other inhabitants.

The 7 Principles of Universal Design (With Real-Life Examples)

A group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers at North Carolina State University created the 7 Principles of Universal Design in the late 1990s. These principles serve as a blueprint for the design of home environments and products, but they are not a rulebook. Instead, you can apply these principles for the overall benefit of any person.

Principle 1: Equitable Use.

The design is marketable and helpful to people from all walks of life and capabilities. 

Real-life example: A fancy, barrier-free shower with high visual contrast and increased friction (to decrease fall risk) is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. The shower also sports a handheld showerhead, grab bars, and other accessibility-focused amenities.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use.

Your home's design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Real-life example: A kitchen with an alternating height island and open shelving (potentially mechanically designed) accommodates personal preferences and abilities. Your shower boasts a handheld showerhead to accommodate those who cannot wash themselves standing up.

Principle 3: Simple & Intuitive Use.

Your home's design is intentional and easy to understand, regardless of users' experience, language skills, or capacity for concentration. 

Real-life example: Your home has a Nest thermostat. This type of thermostat mimics the old Honeywell thermostat with dials. The use of this thermostat design is easy to understand regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, or language skills. 

Principle 4: Perceptible Information.

The design of your home communicates all necessary information to the people who use your home, no matter their sensory capabilities or lighting conditions.

Real-life example: Address numbers (the trending big, bold address numbers) communicate necessary lingo effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's abilities.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error.

The design of your home accounts for possible accidents and hazards.

Real-life example: Your home has a kitchen with a stovetop that only heats up when you place metal pots or pans on it. This feature minimizes hazards and adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort.

You and other users can utilize the design of your home with minimal fatigue.

Real-life example: Your home plan is intuitive, one level (or offers accommodations for people who may become fatigued from multiple levels), and is free of barriers (such as in showers, between rooms, and in front of essential appliances).

Principle 7: Size & Space for Approach & Use.

Your home is the appropriate size and is highly usable, despite users' body size, height, or mobility.

Real-life example: Appropriate size & space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility] Wide hallways and open floor plans throughout your home, including in your master suite, can help you achieve proper size and space for universal design standards.

Advancing Universal Design with Truehold

Here at Truehold, we are  revolutionizing what "home" means for older adults and  working to advance universal design in our local communities. 

Through our Sale-Leaseback solution, homeowners are able to unlock their home’s equity and gain access to our team of local experts to help make any necessary home safety modifications. Truehold residents are also free from the physical and financial burdens of homeownership, like maintenance and repairs, property tax, insurance, and more.

Truehold understands how critical it is for anyone who wishes to remain in their home to be able to do so freely, independently, and comfortably. To learn more about how our Sale-Leaseback can free up time and cash to live easier at home, fill out the form below or give us a call at (314) 353-9757. 

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Written by
The Truehold Team
Driving Innovation in Home Equity Solutions
The Truehold Team, a group of professionals in real estate, finance, technology, and senior living, is committed to providing innovative solutions for homeowners to access their equity.
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Truehold's blog is committed to delivering timely and pertinent insights in real estate and finance, purely for educational and informational purposes. Crafted by experts, our content is thoroughly reviewed to guarantee its accuracy and dependability. Although designed to enlighten and engage, our articles are not intended as financial advice and should not be the sole basis for financial decisions. Our stringent editorial practices ensure the integrity of our content, empowering our readers with valuable knowledge.

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