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univeral design wheelchair ramp

Universal design has been a growing trend in architecture, particularly over the last decade as populations have skewed older. The term “universal design” and the concepts of the universal principle have also made it into design trends. Universal design is becoming more popular all over the world. What implications does this have on design and architecture? How does universal design affect the population?

What is universal design?

Before going more in-depth about the implications and trends of universal design, it’s important to understand what, exactly, this phrase means. According to the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, the globally accepted meaning of “universal design” is design for programs, products, services, and environments that are usable for everyone. These designs are created with accessibility in mind, making them universal. When you understand what universal design is, it’s easy to see how the concepts are making their way into our buildings, our software, and more.

Universal design trends in buildings

Simply put, those who are implementing and pushing universal design want their products, services, or buildings to be accessible by anyone and everyone. This means that the biggest trends in universal design improve the functionality of a building, including residences as well as public spaces. Some of the options, when it comes to making a home that fits the universal design, include:

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  • single-storey homes with ramp access
  • wider elevators to accomodate wheelchairs
  • wheelchair accessible bathroom fixtures, including shower spaces
  • lower kitchen countertops and appliances
  • re-designed handles and door hardware
  • wider hallways to allow for mixed turning radii.

These home trends ensure that the house is more available to anyone who will live in it in the future. While there are many architects and contractors pushing for universal design, it’s interesting to note that the majority of the push is coming from consumers.

universal design kitchen wheelchair

Why consider universal design?

There are several reasons that universal design is important not only in government or office buildings, but in homes as well. This is not only for those elderly and disabled household members currently living in their homes, but also for the physically abled once their range of abilities change over the years, or by circumstance. The AARP conducted a survey consisting of 1016 babyboomer respondents. 79 percent of those who responded said they want to stay in their current home as they get older. The majority of those who said they will likely move responded that they wanted a home with a single level.

As people grow older, they need more accommodation in their homes that suit their current range of abilities. Living in a home that already incorporates universal design allows occupants to stay in their homes longer, because the home has been appropriately scaled with changing lifestyles and life cycles. In addition, this design is potentially beneficial to those with injuries or illnesses that make getting around more difficult.

What are the implications?

When considering universal design, it is important to consider the implications of the trend. With universal design, the biggest implication is that as people age, they want to continue to be independent, and live in their homes for as long as they’d like, while also making sure that their homes are still welcoming to all. With this design trend, that is becoming a better option for many. And this design paradigm isn’t one that will limit homeowners’ options for decor; indeed, this simple principle will work perfectly with traditional and modern decor mash-ups, in addition to a range of other styles.

Because of the inclusivity of universal design, it’s not surprising that it is a growing trend. More homes and businesses are built to be easily accessible to all without stigmatizing any one group, and that will help everyone in ther present, and also in the future as things change. A range of ability during the course of a life rarely stays the same.  Spaces that allow for this reality really are the future in many senses of the word.

Universal design and you

Is your home currently in line with the principles of universal design?

What were some of the steps you took to modify a space to suit a wider range of abilities?

What are some trends in universal design that you feel should have been mentioned in this article?

Tell us all about it in the comments section.

 

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.