Incorporating Subtle Universal Design Into Your Home

Three generations of women in a kitchen.

If you are building a home from scratch or thinking about a major remodel, you might want to consider incorporating universal design into your home. Universal design is the concept of creating an environment that is usable by as many people as possible (including able-bodied people) without the need for adaptation. More importantly, universal design is subtle in its implementation. Following are some ways of incorporating universal design into your own home.

Step-free Entrances

A house with a blue door and shutters.

Climbing stairs can become difficult as we age. A step-free entrance is easy to design when building a home from the ground up. It eliminates the possibility of having to add a ramp to the exterior of your house later in life. Step-free entrances are also great for when you are carrying large packages or groceries. Whether you have difficulty with stairs or find yourself wheelchair bound, you'll be thankful for a step-free entrance.

Install a Small Shelf Near the Door

Installing a small shelf or table just inside the front door is a great place to put your keys, sunglasses, and mail. It's also particularly handy if you are carrying a baby or have limited use of your limbs.

This is an easy DIY task that takes little effort but will be beneficial for many years.

Automatic Lighting Systems

Modern whole house control systems allow you to control your interior and exterior lights remotely from a wireless remote or master control. This type of system allows you to safely enter your home at night.

Many systems also connect to any alarm system you might have, turning the lights on in the event the alarm goes off.

Widen Doorways

Standard interior doors are approximately 30-32 inches wide. The minimum door width needed for a wheelchair is 32 inches. Adding wider doorways to your home opens up your living space, brings light into other rooms, and allows for the potential of wheelchair accessibility should you need it. Wider doorways are also helpful for individuals with walkers or scooters.

Install Door Handles Instead of Knobs

A hand placed on a door handle.

Whether you have children or older individuals living in your home, door handles are much more user-friendly than door knobs because they are easier to grasp. This is a simple universal design fix that can be implemented in any home.

Consider Slip-resistant Flooring

Hardwood and large tile floors can often be slippery -- not a great combination for young kids or the elderly. Consider slip-resistant flooring like cork or carpet. You can also tile with smaller tiles, which will prevent slipping.

Install a Stove with Knobs in Front

Consider a stove that has knobs in the front rather than in the back as they are more accessible. Just be aware of the safety concerns of front stove knobs should you have small children.

Install Adjustable Counters

Adding an adjustable counter to a kitchen island can make a world of difference to those who need to sit or find themselves in a wheelchair. It's also a great place for kids to help in the kitchen.

Install a Front Loading Washer and Dryer

A front loading washer and dryer has many benefits. They use less water and energy, and can be used by children as well as those in a wheelchair.

Add a Bathroom on the Main Floor

A roll-in bath or shower on the main floor of the house can be especially helpful for people of varying mobility. Adding in extra shower heads, a handheld shower, and fold down seats makes the bath even more universal.

Other things you might want to consider in the bath are the use of hooks and shelves. Hooks near the shower for towels are perfect for children and those who are less mobile. Lower shelves inside and outside of the shower make toiletries more accessible.

These are just a few tips and suggestions to start you on your way to implementing universal design into your home.