7 Simple DIY Ideas to Give Your Home a More Universal Design

house with wheelchair ramp

Universal design can help create a safer and more accessible space for those that are young, old, disabled, or just have difficulty getting around. Having a home that is easier for people to maneuver and function in is a great way to make sure that everyone who comes into your home feels comfortable.

Incorporating a more universal design into your existing home layout and fixtures can sound like an overwhelming task. However, by just implementing some simple DIY changes, you can make your home a little easier to get around in for those that are small, tall, young, old, and everything in between. Plus, universal design features will not only make your home more functional to guests, but also work better for you and your family, as your home will be one you can grow old with without any worry.

See some of the little changes you can make to your home for a more universal design.

1. Make Entrances and Exits Easy

Being able to get in and out of a home is important, so make sure the entrances and exits of your home are safe for anyone to use. One of the simplest things you can do with entrances and exits is to eliminate any steps or steep gradients. This could mean building a ramp or putting down thick carpet on uneven flooring.

A ramp is easy to install; all you need to know is the vertical height (rise) and the horizontal length (run). If a set of steps is 25 inches off the ground, it needs 25 feet of a ramp to allow for wheelchair access.

2. Give Better Garage Access

All you have to do to make your garage accessible and safe is make sure that it stays clean. Not having tools, towels, or pieces of equipment on the floor can help keep people from tripping, falling, or picking something up that they are not supposed to handle.

Put up a pegboard to better organize your tools. A good tip is to outline each tool on the pegboard to make it easy to figure out where everything belongs and to make it easy to see if something is missing. This will keep you from worrying about losing items that can cause issues for people. It will also make it easier for people to access what they went in the garage to find if there isn't anything blocking their way.

Other tips for keeping your garage safely accessible are introducing a no-step way of getting in and out of the garage and placing a bench or stool next to doors so items can be set down before opening the door.

3. Ensure a No-Slip Shower or Bathtub

bathtub with handrails for universal design

A shower or bathtub that everyone can easily get in and out of and maneuver in is important for any home because slipping in the shower is seriously dangerous. Incorporating some universal design safety features into your shower can take away your worry when you have guests of varying ages and degrees of independence.

Putting in handrails is one simple way to help everyone achieve independence when it's time to get clean. Handrails should be 32-38 inches off the floor.They should also be installed at an angle to better allow people to get in and out of the tub without slipping. Keep in mind, if you install the handrails next to the studs, they will be even more secure.

4. Keep Sleep Spaces on the First Floor

When thinking about guest rooms, using first floor space is always a smart idea. Not everyone can easily or safely get up and down staircases, so having a place where someone can sleep no matter what his abilities may be is important.

Alternatively, if someone in the household is recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, having a first floor space for resting can help with a speedier recovery.

Swap out an unused office or laundry room for an extra bedroom by putting in a bed and a dresser. If you have the option, choosing a space close to the bathroom is another good bonus.

5. Better Your Bathroom Accessibility

If you're building a new home or renovating your existing space, make sure your bathroom is spacious enough for anyone in a wheelchair to easily maneuver in. Just because you don't know anyone in a wheelchair now, doesn't mean you won't in the future.

If you're simply looking to add some features to your existing bathroom for someone recovering from surgery or for an elderly family member, some DIY putting handrails on either side of the toilet are a great way to do that. As people age or develop physical limitations, sometimes strength can suffer, and having handrails to help with sitting and standing in the toilet area can make a world of difference.

6. Incorporate Good Lighting

A person who has an issue with accessibility can often have issues with being able to navigate space in dimly lit spaces.

Whether you install additional windows in darkened areas of your home or replace dim bulbs with brighter ones, the added lighting can help make your home more easy to maneuver in.

7. Location of Important Devices

A great and easy DIY universal design solution is to make sure that all the devices and fixtures are easy to access. For small children, it means making sure anything they need to access regularly is at an appropriate level.

Lowering light switches can be done easily by removing them from the wall, then attaching your old light switch through a metal conduit to an easier-to-reach box. It's a simple fix that can help greatly for differently-abled users.