Universal Design vs Wheel Chair Accessible Homes

Universal design bathroom.Over three million Americans require a wheelchair for daily living.  Whether through, illness, injury, or birth defect, the result is the same.  These individuals face challenges that the rest of the population is oblivious to; including many of our builders and architects.

 Wheelchair accessible is a colloquial term that most of us understand to include access ramps and wider doorways but the more comprehensive term is Universal Design.  Universal design allows a home to be constructed in a way that makes it accessible for a wide range of people, regardless of age or disabilities. Universal design can also address hearing and visual impairments.

 The simplest obstacles can be insurmountable to some.  The four-inch step to get in the front door or from the garage to the house.  A garage with insufficient space to get out of the vehicle.  Top load washers and dryers. The standard 32-inch doorway that will not accommodate a wheelchair.  Access and a way to transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet.  Access to showers and tubs. And the ability to reach countertops or sinks.  The height of light switches. All of these obstacles exist in almost every home. 

 A home with universal design addresses these and many other issues.  A home just listed for sale was built with Universal design in mind.  The sidewalk approaching the front door has a very gradual slope thus eliminating steps or ramps.  The garage was constructed so that there is not a step from the garage to the home’s interior.  The garage door height is 8 feet high rather than the standard 7, thus accommodating a full size wheelchair lift van.  The garage is 7 feet wider than a normal 2 car garage allowing for ease of loading and unloading.  All doorways in the home are 36 inches wide instead of the standard 32 inches, thus allowing easy movement in a wheelchair. 

 Universal design garage.The kitchen has a roll under sink and roll under counter next to the stove with a roll under height of 28 inches.  This allows for easy meal prep and cooking.  The counters are slightly lower and the upper cabinets are 5 inches lower making it easier to reach from a seated position. 

 The primary bathroom has a roll in shower.  The shower and toilet area are tiled and has matching colored grab bars throughout.  The tub has a platform for someone who can transfer to take a bath if they prefer.  The primary bathroom also has a 5-foot turning radius which provides ample room for a person in a wheelchair to turn around.  Both bathrooms are equipped with grab bars. 

 These and many other features when incorporated into universal design are essential to those who need them.  With proper design, they can be aesthetically pleasing and almost unnoticeable to others. The lack of steps, wide doorways and obstacle free movement adds to a spacious open floor plan.  Oversize garage doors can accommodate today’s pickups, vans, or cars with kayak racks.  Wider garages can be used for workshops or storage, especially in Florida where we don’t have basements.  Front load washers and dryers are often preferred over top load machines.  Roll in showers are easier to walk in as well.  Grab bars are installed by many people as they progressively age. 

 Universal design house.An example of a home built with universal design is this exquisite 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2.5 car garage home in Venice. To find a home with universal design, contact Wayne Welsh, Broker-Associate with Gulf Shores Realty.  Call 941-234-6070 or visit https://FloridaHomesVenice.com

 A home built using universal design concepts can actually save you money.  It is much more costly to modify or remodel to accommodate needed design changes and existing structural elements may be prohibitive.  Universal design is an underappreciated concept that lives big in the lives of those who need it and if done properly is almost invisible to those who don’t.

Posted by Wayne Welsh on


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