What Is Universal Home Design?

kitchen with open, accessible floor plan

Universal home design sounds like maybe it's got a scifi theme. Maybe there's a telescope somewhere. But actually, universal home design is about making a home universally enjoyable by everyone. This design is all about a no-barriers, fully accessible layout that people of all abilities can use.


Universal home design is accessible and safe for everyone, no matter their size, physical ability, or age. But that doesn't necessarily mean the house is full of grab bars and ramps and weird equipment. Actually, it adds a lot of stuff you already want to home design. Universal design gives homes wider doors and hallways. Everything is a little easier to get to and the whole house feels a little more spacious.

exterior wooden ramp for universal access

What Will You Find in Universal Home Design?

A few small changes can make all the difference in universal home design.


Instead of knobs, use cabinet pulls for drawers and cabinets. They are much easier to get open and still look nice.

Add a Contrast Band

With a contrast edge band, the end of counters are much easier to see. This can be a great help for someone with failing eyesight. It's also a pretty interesting design element that looks highly decorative.

Use Varied Height Counters

Counters at various heights make it easier for people to work in the kitchen together and they're helpful for people who are taller or shorter than others. Lower counters are great for baking and other types of food prep, because it makes tasks like kneading dough easier.

Open Spaces

Some open spaces in the kitchen can be extremely helpful for people who are in wheelchairs. Consider leaving an open space under the cooktop, under the sink and in other areas of the kitchen. These open areas accommodate wheelchairs.


hand holding adjustable shower head

An adjustable-height showerhead that can be used by anyone is essential. They should be mounted at a height someone can reach from a chair.

Automated Lights

Lights that work on a timer or through a smart system are fun to have anyway and there are super easy for anyone to use regardless of their mobility.

Change Your Faucets

How do you know that your faucets are accessible for a wide range of people, even though who have issues with arthritis or mobility? Try operating your faucets using only your closed fist. If you can still turn the water off and on, your faucets are accessible.

The Little Things

exterior motion sensor light on stucco wall

Not every single thing you do to integrate universal home design into your home has to be a big upgrade or an expensive addition. There are lots of small things you can do to start making your home safer and more accessible right away.

There are several little things you can do to make your home more accessible. Floor-length mirrors allow anyone, of any height, to see themselves. It's also nice to have floor-length mirrors. Anti-scald valves on tubs and showers add a huge safety feature. Add adjustable height rods and shelves in closets to make storage accessible. This also allows you to use more of your vertical space.

Add motion detector light switches to garages, entrances, and utility rooms. Upgrade to smart technology that allows you to control the home's temperature or even answer the door through a smartphone. Add more lighting around stairways and entranceways. All these little changes are actually a nice upgrade for any home and they make spaces more accessible.

You should also place non-slip mats inside bathtubs. This actually makes it safer for everyone because anyone can slip and fall in the shower, which is potentially extremely hazardous and even fatal.

Making Your Home Easier

Making your home more accessible and adding universal design features makes it easier to live in your home. Lower counters, wider doorways, bigger hallways, cabinet pulls and all the other features associated with universal home design make it easier for everyone to access everything in the home, get around more easily and do everyday tasks like cooking and washing. Universal home features add value to the home, rather than taking anything away.