Home arrow My Place arrow DIY, Hints and Advice arrow Design arrow Rooms arrow Universal Design Principles
Universal Design Principles
As we age, our needs and abilities change. Principles of universal design emphasising easy access can help us incorporate features into our home that benefit all of us.

Ease of access

The concept of universal design embraces the principle that people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. In other words, a home can be built or modified to accommodate all of its inhabitants, even as they age and their needs change.

But universal design is not strictly for the elderly or disabled. Its aim is to make living and work-spaces equally comfortable, safe and accessible to all, regardless of our height, mobility, health or physical ability.

Universal Design Principles

Smart tips

The following ideas can make a home safer for an older resident but they're pretty smart    for home owners of all ages.

Not everyone has the luxury of designing an entire house around the prospect of growing old in it (or for their aging parents), but some of these changes can be made to your home with some easy retro-fitting.
  • Fit bathroom floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces to help everyone avoid a fall, not just people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms. Think about adding bars by the toilet, too, or other places in the room where someone may need a helping hand. A step-in shower is safer than a tub, but if that's not possible, support bars will help.
  • Think about a hand-held showerhead that is often easier to use than a fixed showerhead for someone with limited mobility.
  • A single-handled tap control reduces the chances of scalding at the sink, and a pressure-balanced control does the same in the shower.
  • Room thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway and help others avoid tripping.
  • Good lighting helps us all see better, particularly those of us with poor night vision. A dark room is an invitation to bump or fall, so make sure there's adequate lighting in every room, hallway and doorway. Entry ways are especially dangerous if not well lit.
  • Think about fitting lever door handles and rocker light switches rather than door knobs and standard switches. They are a blessing for anyone with poor hand strength.
  • If your home is on more than one level, secure handrails and good top-to-bottom lighting are essential on staircases. Make sure the steps are clearly defined, particularly the edge of the tread. This is also a consideration on external landings and entry points where people can be distracted by fumbling with keys, packages or the mail. A small bench might help so packages can be put down.