“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou in the book ‘All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes’
The circle of life and the home we live in are deeply entwined with each other for the home is witness to all that happens in our life. When we buy or build a home, we are unsure of the changes that will occur with time.
It could be a birth in the family, so our home needs to be designed for kids. It could also happen that our parents may eventually face immobility or supported mobility. It is important to incorporate a design that could cater to their special needs. Kids may grow up into hyper-active teenagers who may need ‘their space’!
Our own interests and hobbies may change over time. In the light of all this, is it really possible to design a FOREVER home?
Using The Universal Design Principles, We Can Design A ‘FOREVER’ Home!
These principles, when kept in mind, can be very handy while designing a new home or renewing old designs so as to increase utilization and usability of products and spaces.
A key aspect of the universal design is choice of products that enable versatility in use.
Let’s master these principles to design our ‘Forever’ home just the way we would need it in the years to come.
Principle #1: A Design That Fits All
The first principle emphasizes that a design should be able to cater to all types of users in the same way while being appealing to them i.e without stigmatizing any group of users. The design should be identical whenever possible and similarly designed otherwise.
Over-sized switches help those with dim or limited vision and even children who’d be better off operating larger objects.
A simple rule to follow would be to have uniformly levelled flooring throughout the house to avoid trips, falls and injuries to the elderly who need assistance walking as well as toddlers who are still learning to walk!
Choose non-slip, comfortable flooring.
A lever-handle door is always better as it can be easily operated (and opened using the elbow or chin) as compared to a circular knob which is tough to use when a person is carrying a baby or unable to use his palm.
Using full-length mirrors would mean it’s useful for those seated in a wheelchair as well for children, just like it is useful for normal adults.
Well-designed sound insulation can help anyone who might become hard of hearing - using carpets instead of bare flooring, and curtains instead of blinds. Additionally, lower, flat ceilings are far better than high concave ones.
Principle #2: Design That’s Flexible
Flexibility in the design of products is key which means people with different preferences and abilities are also able to use it.
A product that’s suitable for left and right-handed people. Did you know the ‘normal’ scissors aren’t actually comfortable for left-handed people? If you have a left-handed person at home, why not consider a pair of scissors that suit both?
Kitchen knives, peelers, and utensils with good gripping handles are helpful for everyone.
Never keep kitchen utilities at a steep height. Microwave, kitchen boards, cutlery can be kept at a height that’s convenient for all users. Pull-out counter-tops can be space savers.
Pocket doors or sliding doors are user-friendly, look neat and save space in one go!
Flexible bathroom shower handles instead of fixed ones is a must have for a universally designed home.
Principle #3: Design That’s Simple And Intuitive To Use
Over-complicated designs can be a menace not only when users find it difficult to use but also in terms of maintenance and repair. It’s best to keep the design simple and intuitive so you don’t have to provide user manuals to guests!
Have you ever visited a house where it’s taken you a while figuring out how the taps work? That’s exactly what we ask you to avoid. Bathroom plumbing should be kept simple, so anyone can figure out how to use it. Colour codes for hot and cold and bathroom accessories with clear marking are a great help.
Drawers with simplistic D-handles are always a safe bet.
Sinks with paddle handles are easy to use and maintain.
Designing towel hangers, toilet paper holder, soap shelves to double up as grab bars is being creative while being a well-designed home!
Push button boxes are a great way to store stuff as they can be simply opened and closed at the touch of a button.
Choose drawers, instead of doors, when it comes to kitchen cabinetry. Finding stuff becomes simpler, and these are easier to clean as well.
Principle #4: Design That Communicates Well
Any sophisticated equipment should provide necessary user information in a visual, verbal and tactile manner so it can be utilized in the most effective manner in any situation, by anyone.
Colour coding is important when it comes to differentiating between hot and cold, whether in faucets or air conditioners.
Audible instruction manuals are also available now for many products.
Smoke detectors giving audible and visual symbols.
Safety devices which ring alarms when there is a breach are very helpful when it comes to homes housing only the elderly.
Keyless locks, automatic doors are just some of the latest technology items that can really ease up everyday living activities for the differently abled.
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Principle #5: Design That Has Tolerance For Errors
A universally designed product should consider safety as its utmost priority and hence allow for overcoming accidental actions.
Drawers that go back in with a gentle push and are smooth in action. This would help if someone left them open accidentally or tried to put it back too fast.
Furniture with rounded corners.
Doors with hydraulic pull back.
Bathroom floor surfaces that provide enough grip while being smooth for a wheelchair’s movement.
Windows or balconies that also have metal grills for protection in case the glass gives way.
Principle #6: Design That Requires Low Physical Effort
Obviously, if it’s a daily living activity one would want to put the least amount of effort in it while being able to do the task efficiently.
Heights of sinks and study tables to be designed such that they do not place a strain on your back.
A covering for your balcony so there is a minimum effort in cleaning it.
Gently rising ramp (wherever it is used) instead of a steep one.
Principle #7: Design That Is Appropriate In Size And Space
A well-designed space should be ideal in terms of size, irrespective of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.
A sink that has space below for the wheelchair to set in.
Essential appliances that can be easily accessed even while sitting in a wheelchair.
Kitchen counter spaces and even workspaces where there are no overcrowding cupboards below so that they can spaciously accommodate user’s legs or wheelchairs.
An aesthetically well-presented chair in the bath area to help elderly take a leisurely bath or a mother give a bath to her baby.
Having hallways at least five and a half foot wide accommodates strollers, walkers, and wheelchairs comfortably.
A universally designed home will be a home catering to people of all ages and abilities. Such a home is timeless and worth more than its value. Think about designing a home which will cater to your needs at all times, more so when you need it the most. If you think you need help in designing such a home, don’t forget to Contact Hipcouch today!