Universal design

Of course the phrase “universal design” sounds to me as if it should come equipped with a universal translator. But no, it’s a growing school of design conventions intended to making buildings as functional as possible from a wide variety of perspectives.

Universal design embodies seven principles, including:

1. Equitable use
This principle focuses on providing equitable access for everyone in an integrated and dignified manner. It implies that the design is appealing to everyone and provide an equal level of safety for all users.

2. Flexibility in use
This principle implies that the design of the house or product has been developed considering a wide range of individual preferences and abilities throughout the life cycle of the occupants.

The seven principles are included in an appendix to a CMHC pamphlet on Accessible Housing by Design.

Some of the ways universal design principles play out in practice include:

  • ensure at least one entrance to the home is step-free and under cover
  • use lever style door handles and faucets, which are easier to use
  • design doorways 36 inches wide, hallways at least 42 inches wide, to ensure ease of movement.



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