We spend a lot of time at home, so it is important to ensure that our homes suit our needs and can accommodate future changes in our needs. Universal design helps to plan for the future and enables you to incorporate strategies to proof your home.
Universal design features can be easily incorporated in the design of your house while you are building or renovating. This will save you time and money in the long run as it becomes more difficult and expensive to start a new project specifically to add these features later.
Universal design aims to support you throughout all the phases of life, whether you are raising small children or needing to ensure your home works for you as you age. Some things to consider are, is access to your entrance level (no steps), and the width of hallways and doorways. These are useful for baby strollers as well as wheelchairs and walkers.
All aspects of your home are considered, and while you may not be able to make all the changes, each one you do make will help you to remain in your home for longer. Like other home improvements, individuals can decide which features will be more useful to them than others.
Sometimes there are simple solutions that you may not have even thought of. We have all visited a friend's and/or family member's house and thought, 'Wow, it's such an easy space to use'. Well, this ease-of-use might be because they have ensured that their space includes some key features. Have a closer look at what makes those spaces work so well.
Universal design is not just for people with limited mobility, it benefits everyone whether it’s a mother with a pram or an elderly visitor using a mobility device (walker) coming for a visit.
There are some simple design features that can make access to your home easier. Having a paved pathway leading to the front door as well as non-slip surfaces at the front door help to reduce falls. Once you have carried the shopping to the front door you may have to put it down while you search for your house keys. Having a 900mm high shelf to put your groceries or handbag on is an easy way of avoiding having to bend down to lift heavy shopping off the ground. Another safety feature is a well-lit entrance, which is also a deterrent to burglars.
On wet days there is nothing more annoying than not being able to get out of your car without getting soaked. In order to future-proof your parking, make sure that when your car is in the carport or garage you are able to open the doors wide. This will enable you to easily get the shopping out and/or help the kids in and out as well as giving you enough room should you require a walker or wheelchair.
Many of you will have thought of wider corridors, well-lit staircases with handrails etc. What you might not have considered are the placements of power points and light switches. Placing light switches at a reachable height from a seated position makes for ease of use. Power points are often placed in a corner and are hard to reach. Where possible try to place these away from corners and at a higher level so there is not such a need to bend down when plugging and unplugging devices.
If you are needing to modify your home for health or disability reasons, there is support available. The Ministry of Health provides some financial support towards housing modifications. If you require housing modifications as a result of an injury, then ACC will provide support. To access these services, you will need to speak with your GP about referring you to an Occupational Therapist (OT). To read about the Ministry of Health eligibility criteria click here.