Sponsor spotlight: Universal design — homes that work for everybody – My Edmonds News

One element of universal design is extra-wide hallways and door. (Photo courtesy Irons Brothers Construction)

The majority of U.S. homes today are designed to work best for the sensory skills, size and capabilities of an able-bodied, 170-pound, 5-foot-9-inch male.

What if homes were instead designed to be accessible to anyone, regardless of age, ability, preference (e.g., right- or left-handed) or size? That’s the idea behind universal design.

Understanding home design and remodeling options can be confusing, especially when some terms seem to be used interchangeably. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), aging in place and universal design have overlapping concepts, but each offers a distinct approach to home design.

If homes today are designed for the average, 5-foot-9-inch male, then that is going to limit the ability of others to use those homes efficiently and effectively.

Just 3.5% of all U.S. homes included features such as grab-bars or handrails in the bathroom, extra-wide hallways and doors, and a bedroom on the entry level. Even simple remodeling projects can go a long way toward making a home more accessible to everyone.

Universal design elements can benefit those who want to age in place by improving visibility and functionality, which is why the terms are often used interchangeably. However, universal design is more comprehensive in its approach by ensuring people of all abilities — even young children — are able to access things they