Design Dictionary: Universal Design

Universal Design refers to the idea of creating buildings and interiors that absolutely anyone can access and enjoy safely and easily, no matter their level of disability or mobility. But Universal Design doesn't so much refer to adding a bunch of wheelchair ramps to existing structures. It touches on the idea of designing spaces that have wide accessibility built right in — unseen and seamless with the beautiful design elements.

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Born from the advances in medical technology and other technologies that allow people to live longer and better with illnesses and injuries, Universal Design just makes sense: why not create environments, both public and private, that allow ease of use and ultimate enjoyment of architecture, in a way that isn't obnoxiously noticeable?

So yes, wheelchair access is an easy example of Universal Design, but so are door handles designed to be easier to open for older folks with arthritis and limited arm strength. Or brightly colored corridors for those with limited visibility. Countertops of varying heights to accommodate folks with varying heights. And don't think Universal Design only refers to architecture design — it's a term that works across the board, from industrial design of products to even transportation, like buses that lower down to the curb to eliminate difficult steps up.

Even if you are as healthy as a horse, Universal Design is still something to think about. Knock on wood an injury or illness never comes your way, but keep in mind that there's one thing none of us can prevent, and that's getting older. If you think you've found your forever home you'd like to grow old in, while you have the ability to make small adjustments now might be the time to consider making your home more accessible before you need it!

For more in-depth information about the Universal Design check out:
Universal Design Tips for the Home!
Put Safety First: 14 Universal Design Tips
Universal Design Wiki

(Images: Delta Faucets; Architectural Record Continuing Education Center)

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Adrienne photographs beautiful homes in and around her home base of Austin, Texas. She's a contributor to UPPERCASE Magazine and spends all her free time exploring small town Texas. She watches a lot of Star Trek.

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