By Pam Dewey • universal design, universal design home, accessibility home, making a home accessible, adding accessibility to a home, accessibility improvements, easy accessibility improvements • September 16, 2021
If you don’t have a loved one with a disability, you may not worry about your home’s accessibility. But the truth is, our bodies change as we age, and so do our needs. And universal design isn’t just for people with disabilities.
Apartment Therapy states, “Universal design is truly for everyone, despite widespread confusion about it only being for disabled or elderly people. Everyone’s needs change over a lifetime, and even if someone in a household doesn’t have a disabling condition, most of us have at least one friend or family member who does. Universal design is equally as important for personal reasons as it is for hospitality.” Even if you don’t know someone in a wheelchair, you’ll likely have a loved one or friend who develops difficulty walking, arthritis or maybe struggles with sensory sensitivities.
Here are some ways you can make your home more accessible with universal design ideas.
Paint is a simple way to make your home more accessible
The paint colors you choose can make your home easier to navigate for people with visual impairments. But avoid greens and reds for people who are colorblind. You can differentiate rooms by painting each room a distinct color, so people know when they’re transitioning into a new space. Apartment Therapy also recommends that you outline the “details of surfaces and walkways — like stair edges, handrails, and baseboards,” as well as adding color contrast for light switches and appliances. Highlighting these items with color makes them easier to see and navigate. For a low-cost solution for appliances, you can add vinyl or paint to the front of the fixtures.
Color is also important for people with sensory sensitivities
People with autism often experience sensory sensitivity, but other people can also experience sensory sensitivity, too. Those with sensory sensitivity may experience sensory overload and react strongly to loud noises, bright lights or new smells. Others may have an under-reaction or emotional withdrawal from a situation. Maegan Blau, the owner of Blue Copper Design, suggests, “Color can combat overstimulation, anxiety, depression and sensory sensitivities. If you or your family are feeling overwhelmed, consider using soft tones, cool tones or dark tones. If low-energy is the case, consider using saturated tones, warm tones or a lot of whites.”
Consider some simple bathroom upgrades
Changing your toilet is a relativity easy and inexpensive way to improve accessibility for people with mobility concerns. Taller toilets or elongated bowl toilets are easier to navigate. Remodeling magazine states, “Whether the concern is being able to transfer someone from a wheelchair to the toilet, or simply being able to get up easier after use, toilets that with a seat between 16 and 17 inches above the floor work best for universal design.”
Adding grab bars near the toilet or in the tub or shower also helps make your home more accessible.
Removing thresholds makes homes easier to navigate
Thresholds are often used when flooring changes from room to room or in doorways. But thresholds are harder for wheelchairs to navigate and can present a tripping hazard for others with mobility issues. Removing thresholds can help make your home easier to move through. This goes for showers too. Walk-in showers are much safer and easier to get in and out of than tub showers.
If falls are a concern, removing area rugs will also help, as rugs are a leading cause of falls within homes.
Kitchen upgrades don’t have to be costly
Faucets with one lever are easier to grip. Also, pulls on your kitchen cabinets, rather than knobs, are easier to grab.
You can install brighter lights, under-cabinet lights or lights in cabinets to eliminate dark corners in your kitchen and make dinner prep that much easier for everyone.
Remodeling magazine states, “Even [non-disabled] homeowners hate to dig for items that get pushed to the back of their cabinets. Pull-out cabinetry, slide-out shelves, lazy Susans and other organizational solutions help bring items to the user, eliminating difficult reaching.”
Tech solutions can keep loved ones safe
You can add alarmed door locks, if you’re concerned about your child or an older loved one leaving the house. A variety of plug-in sensors are motion-activated or controlled by remote access, so you can automatically turn off some appliances like a coffee pot, a hot iron or even lamps. This can prevent dangerous appliances from being left on too long. It can also make switching on and off lights easier.
Making your home easier, safer and more inviting for people of all abilities doesn’t have to be a huge, complicated undertaking. Some small changes can have a big impact, and you can make updates gradually to help plan for the changing needs of you and your loved ones.