What is Universal Housing?
Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. -Ron Mace
Current home-building trends are turning more toward building homes with at least a few basic accessible features. Many builders are now adding at least one
SNRP highly recommends the North Caroline State University College of Design web site for individuals who would like to study Universal Design principles in more detail. Further information may be found at the link listed below:
How Do I know What I Need?
If you are unsure of what types of changes will need to be made or equipment you will require, an evaluation by a Rehabilitation specialist trained in housing accessibility may be very helpful in assisting you identify features that could be upgraded. If you are applying for assistance programs for remodeling or updating your current home a Rehabilitation evaluation is an absolute must. An assessment of your current housing situation with a list of limitations and pit falls with recommended changes and upgrades for new housing is key. This letter of recommendations will be the foundation for shopping for new housing, applying for grants, HUD loans, ordering equipment, working with a contractor etc. Your physician may also use this letter as a reference when writing prescriptions for equipment ordered through a medical equipment company, which may also be paid for by your insurance company. Once you know what you need, you can then begin to look at your options.
Whether you are renting, purchasing existing construction or building a new home from the ground up there are several specific features to be on the look out for.
1. An easily accessible, safe, approach to the main entrance. Either a gently sloping sidewalk or ground level porch. Covered and out of the weather is preferred.
2. A wide front doorway a minimum of 36 inches wide. Paddle/lever handles are easier to grasp and manipulate.
3. Interior doorways and hallways must be navigable. Interior doors should also be 36 inches wide, when possible
4. At least one bathroom must be accessible. A wheelchair turn space and room for a care assistant should be built into the room. Add a curb-less shower, handheld shower head and lower faucet controls for ease of use.
5. Kitchens should have the minimum
6. Bedrooms must have enough room for a bed, dresser and space for any equipment that may be needed by the individual. Allow room for a wheelchair or walker to be placed within reach from the bed. Install an intercom near the bed if needed to call for help during the night.
7. Light switches and plugs should be easy to reach for all occupants. Plug sockets should be raised to between 25-27 inches from the floor with light switches at 40 inches.
8. Minimize the number of transitions between types of flooring and the use of carpet. This will decrease the number of trip hazards in the home as well as frequent replacing costly carpet. If carpet is a must, stick with a low pile and use as little as possible.
9. Handles and faucets. Paddle, or lever, style handles are excellent replacements for door knobs. Simple pressure with a fist or an elbow will serve to open the door. Same for faucet handles in the kitchen and the bathroom. Drawer pulls should be "U" shaped to allow for a simple "hook" with stiff fingers.
True Universal Home Design is building design that EVERY member of the household, regardless of ability, is able to access every square inch of the space and not be impeded in the process.
It is important that to note that most spaces will need to be accessible to more than just one family member at a time. Quite often special needs individuals will have Home Health Aides, Respite Providers and other family members assisting them at various times during the day. Especially children. Everyone needs to be able to safely use all spaces within the home.