What is Universal Design?

Universal design is about creating a home for everyone, regardless of age, size, or ability. Universal design features and products make a home safer and more comfortable for a wide range of people. And, as the name implies, universal design fits everyone and every lifestyle including:

Universal design is about creating great living spaces for:

  • Families with young children
  • Older adults who want to stay in their home as they grow older
  • People who are taller or shorter than average
  • People who have limited mobility or dexterity
  • People with a permanent or temporary disability

Universal Design Features Checklist

Universal design features are those components of a home that work well for all residents and any guests who may visit.  They just make good common sense.   Having universal design features and products in a home prevents accidents, increases comfort and safety, and enhances resident’s independence.

Essential universal design features include:

  • At least one no-step entry to the house either through the front, back, or garage door. Preferably both, for fire escape safety.
  • Entryway doors that are at least 32 inches wide, and interior doors at least 30 inches wide to allow for ample room to pass through.
  • Light controls, electrical outlets, and thermostats that are easily reachable for a person in a wheelchair.
    A 3-foot-wide corridor, free of hazards and steps that connects all rooms on the main floor.
  • A bedroom, kitchen, entertainment area, and a full bathroom, with plenty of space for maneuverability, on the main floor.
  • Reinforced bathroom walls for the option of adding grab bars.
  • Lever-style door handles and faucets that don’t require grasping or twisting to operate.

In addition to the above, there are many other universal design features and products that many people, especially those over 50, like and incorporate into their homes. They include:

  • Raised front loading clothes washer, dryer, and dishwasher.
  • Side-by-side refrigerator.
  • Easy access kitchen storage (pull-out shelves, adjustable height cupboards, lazy susans).
  • Low or no-threshold showers with built-in bench or fold-down seat.
  • Non-slip floors, bathtubs, and showers.
  • Raised, comfort-level toilets.
  • Multi-level kitchen countertops with open space underneath so one can work while seated.
  • Windows that require minimal effort to open and close.
  • Covered entryway or porch to protect you from rain and snow.
  • Rocker-style light switches.
  • Task lighting directed to a specific surface or area that provides illumination for specific tasks.
  • Easy to grasp cabinet knobs or pulls.


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