How to Infuse Universal Design into Any Home

As much as we hate to admit it, getting older is an unavoidable part of life. Our hearing and vision begin to weaken, and our aging joints make even the most mundane tasks—from taking out the trash to enjoying a hot shower—just a bit more difficult to accomplish.

Fortunately, there are some universal updates you can make to the home to help make everyone more comfortable. In fact, people of all ages, able-bodied or not, can benefit by embracing homes with universal design. These homes implement design features that maximize comfort and convenience for everyone’s enjoyment, even as needs evolve.

Bathrooms. We all know that a significant number of in-home accidents occur in the bathroom. Here are some improvements:

  • Non-slip flooring and grab bars—once added to the tub or shower, these things can dramatically reduce the chance of falls and other accidents.
  • Elevated soap holders and shower ledges—reduce the risk of falls by eliminating the need to bend over while in the tub.
  • Go barrier-free—eliminate the need to step into the shower by converting unused tubs to walk-in showers. This will make the process of entering and exiting the tub easier for anyone with mobility concerns, both now and down the line.

Kitchens. Possibly the area of highest concern following bathrooms. In the kitchen, the aim of universal design is to promote visibility and access.

  • Under-cabinet lights—these can both add ambiance and functionality to the kitchen, allowing members of the household to navigate the kitchen with more confidence.
  • Lever-style cabinet handles—update your kitchen with this style of handle to make the cabinets easier to open. This is especially useful for any household members or guests who have arthritis.
  • Sliding shelves—when added to deep, floor-level cabinets, sliding shelves can be a considerable improvement to hard-to-reach areas. They also provide a more efficient use of space.
  • Elevated, neutral countertops—as opposed to countertops with loud patterns, neutral countertops can make it easier to see things you might have set there, from keys to cutlery.

Doors. While typically not a concern for those without mobility issues, doors can present a challenge for those for whom walking requires more effort and concentration—or isn’t an option.

  • Pocket/barn doors—not only are these doors a popular design choice, they are easier to open than your traditional hinged door. They can help make navigating in and around the home easier.
  • Wider-doorways—experts currently recommend 36-inch wide doors and 42-inch wide halls and stairways. This allows everyone—including those that may be pushing a stroller, or in a wheelchair—more room to move around.

Smart technology. We all love our gadgets, and with as easy as technology has made certain aspects of life, it’s no surprise to see this extend to the home. These features are popular among those shopping for a new home, and are also incredibly beneficial to anyone with physical limitations.

  • Automated window blinds—close or open your windows from the push of a button, or an app on your phone. These are handy for homes with hard-to-reach windows.
  • Smart-appliances—the tools we rely on every day made accessible through voice command or remote application.
  • Motion-sensing lights—lights that will come on without needing you to fumble around in the dark searching for a switch. Not only are these practical, they will help save electricity, lower utility bills, and save moms and dads everywhere the time it takes to remind their kids to turn off the lights after they’ve left a room.
  • Remote-controlled security systems and door locks—allow for more safety, convenience, and peace of mind. No more worrying if the door was left unlocked, or if someone forgot to turn on the system before leaving the house.
  • Smart thermostats—adjust your home’s climate to fit your schedule and save on heating and cooling costs while you’re away from home.

There are many ways to implement universal design features into your home for enhanced safety and comfort. If you’re interested in learning more about universal design, or want to get started updating your home, find a professional that meets your needs at