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Universal Design – Accessibility for All Ages

What is Universal Design?

“Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”  (Ron Mace, of the Center for Universal Design)

Why should I consider Universal Design for my home construction or remodel?

A family’s changing lifestyle is an important factor in creating a design for a lifetime.  AARP statistics show that 60% of American baby-boomers would like to stay in their homes as they age. However, many homes do not have the features to support this transition. Universal design features will make your home easier to live in, more convenient, and ultimately give you better resale value for your home.

Finally, one out of three people in America will have a disability in their lifetime. Everything from a broken leg to arthritis can temporarily or permanently change how a person lives in their home. Universal design features allow for all of life’s contingencies.

Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS)

“CAPS professionals have been taught the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically pleasing, barrier-free living environments. The CAPS program goes beyond design to address the codes and standards, common remodeling projects and their costs, product ideas and resources needed to provide comprehensive and practical aging-in-place solutions.”  (AARP, 2007)  For a complete list of CAPS certified builders click here.

Why not build a home you can live in for a lifetime?

Every year millions of Americans build a new home.  But most people who build new homes give very little thought to how their home will adapt to their needs as they age.  Here is a list of things you will want to ask yourself and discuss with your builder.


Do you have friends or family that are physically challenged who may visit you?
Do you have other people living with you? If not now, will you in the future?
Will there be an assist animal living with you? Are there any special requirements needed for this animal?
List the equipment that you will be using, such as strollers, exercise machines, health equipment, etc.
Do you desire to be close to community amenities – public transportation, hospitals, etc.?
Do you desire main floor bath, bedroom or utility access?


What is your budget for your home or renovation?
Do you know your financing options?


Do you prefer a level or a walkout lot?
Do you need specific garage
features for a customized vehicle?
Do you prefer a house with or without a basement?
Do you need an elevator or lift for access to the basement or second floor?
Have you thought about a floor covering that is usable by all persons and lifestyles?
Is a maintenance-free exterior important to you?
Are you incorporating exterior decks or porches into the home?
Do you need to approach sinks or doors from a certain side?
Are you using mobility equipment?
Would you like the convenience of a zero step entry on all exterior doors?

Kitchen & Bath

Would a 48-inch clear floor space in the kitchen and bath make life easier?
Do vanities, cabinets and fixtures need to be a special height or design?
Have you considered appliances that are easy to reach with user-friendly controls?
Have you considered a curb-less walk in shower?
Are “scald-proof” fixtures required? If so, which type?
What shower or bath features do you prefer, i.e. multiple shower heads, shower seat, hand-held shower head, etc.

Laundry & Closets

Would a 48-inch clear floor space ease laundry duties?
Would you prefer front loading or pedestal appliances?
Would walk-in and adjustable closet shelving provide a more organized and convenient environment?

Other Considerations

Do you want the convenience and beauty of lever handles?
Have you thought about task lighting?
Have you considered windows that can be operated within easy reach?

Environmental Needs

Is an air conditioner required?
Is an air purifier required?
Have you considered a Green Built™ home or products?

Technology Needs

Which rooms and locations require outlets for phone, TV and other communication?
Have you considered intercoms or voice activated devices?

Universal Design Brochure