Making Homes Accessible for All

Understanding Universal Design and CAPS Certification

At Around the House, Inc., we’re committed to making homes accessible and comfortable for everyone, regardless of age or ability. As Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) with certification from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), we apply universal design principles to ensure our renovations meet the highest standards of accessibility and inclusivity.

Principles of Universal Design

Universal design aims to create environments that are usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. This approach is essential for making homes safe and comfortable for everyone, from young children to elderly adults and individuals with disabilities.

Applying Universal Design in Bathroom Renovations

One of the most impactful areas for applying universal design principles is in the bathroom. Recently, we completed a project that transformed a hall bathroom to improve accessibility and usability. The original bathroom featured a traditional bathtub, which we removed to install a new, accessible shower.

Key Features of the Renovated Bathroom:

  • Shower with a Seat: We installed a built-in seat in the shower to provide a comfortable and safe place to sit while bathing.
  • Easily Accessible Shower Valves: The shower controls were positioned within easy reach to ensure convenience and safety.
  • Handicap Rails: Strategically placed grab bars offer additional support and stability, reducing the risk of slips and falls.
  • No Curb Entry: The shower was designed with a zero-threshold entry, eliminating any barriers and making it wheelchair accessible.

Before and After

The transformation of a bathtub into an ADA shower.

A Personal Connection

This particular renovation was special not only because of the positive impact it had on the homeowner’s quality of life but also because of a surprising personal connection. Upon arriving at the job site, we discovered that the homeowner was someone we knew well. When we hosted a foreign exchange student from Sweden years ago, this individual was the Exchange Student representative. Reconnecting through this project added a personal touch and made the successful renovation even more rewarding.

Additional Universal Design Suggestions for Aging in Place

In addition to bathroom renovations, there are several other areas in the home where universal design principles can be applied to enhance accessibility and safety, particularly for aging in place:

Doorways and Entries

  • Wider Doorways: Standard doorways can be a barrier for those using wheelchairs or walkers. Widening doorways to at least 36 inches can accommodate these needs.
  • Lever-Style Door Handles: Traditional round doorknobs can be difficult to operate for those with arthritis or limited hand strength. Lever-style handles are easier to use and more accessible.
  • No-Step Entry: Creating a no-step entry into the home helps those with mobility issues. This might include a ramp or a zero-threshold entryway.
    Automatic Door Openers: For individuals with severe mobility limitations, automatic door openers can provide significant independence.

Kitchens

  • Lower Countertops and Cabinets: Adjustable or lower countertops and cabinets can make kitchen tasks easier for those using wheelchairs or with limited reach.
  • Pull-Out Shelves and Drawers: These features make it easier to access items without the need to bend or reach extensively.
  • Easy-to-Read Controls: Appliances with large, easy-to-read controls are safer and more user-friendly for individuals with vision impairments.

General Home Modifications

  • Non-Slip Flooring: Installing non-slip flooring materials throughout the home reduces the risk of falls.
  • Ample Lighting: Good lighting is crucial for safety. Consider adding more light fixtures, using brighter bulbs, and ensuring even light distribution to minimize shadows.
  • Stairlifts or Home Elevators: For multi-story homes, stairlifts or home elevators can make upper floors accessible.

Embrace Universal Design in Your Home

Universal design is not just about accommodating immediate needs; it’s about future-proofing your home to ensure it remains accessible and comfortable for years to come. Whether you’re planning a major renovation or a small update, incorporating universal design principles can make a significant difference.
If you’re considering a home renovation and want to learn more about how universal design can benefit you, reach out to us at Around the House, Inc. We’re here to help you create a living space that is inclusive, safe, and beautiful for everyone.

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