Chances are that when you and your friends talk about your favorite design trends over coffee, terms like "shiplap", "subway tile" and "rustic farmhouse" come up much more often than "universal design". That's understandable given the popularity of Chip and Jo, Drew and Jonathan, Ben and Erin, and other HGTV stars. In the long run, however, universal design -- the practice of thoughtfully creating spaces and products for use by everyone regardless of ability -- may give homeowners the biggest return on their renovation investment over the longest period of time.
Why, you ask? There are three reasons that may surprise you!
Disability doesn't discriminate. According to the Social Security Administration, over 25% of Americans born twenty years ago will be out of work for a significant amount of time because of a serious illness or injury at some point in their lives, prior to retirement. Disabilities of all kinds can create real challenges and frustrations for homeowners who are used to independent living. For example, even something as routine as heating up leftovers can be harder than climbing Mount Everest in a blizzard if the family's microwave oven is over the stove and out of reach for someone in a wheelchair. In a kitchen that incorporates universal design principles, a microwave oven can be included in a center island or under a counter for easy access.
Multigenerational homes are a hot commodity. Today's senior citizens want to remain
active and independent for as long as possible, while having family nearby in case of an emergency or chronic illness. As a result, many communities are relaxing their building permit requirements to allow families to create Accessory Family Dwelling Units-- commonly known as "in-law apartments" -- that allow the elderly to age in place while giving their caregivers a measure of privacy. Universal design's commitment to ease of use and tolerance for error helps grandparents, parents and children enjoy the benefits of a safe, accessible home.
With universal design, everyone feels welcome. When a building is renovated or retrofitted for accessibility, the results aren't always user-friendly or aesthetically pleasing. A wheelchair ramp may require the user to go to a side door instead of entering by the front door with his friends, and generic grab bars installed in a lavish bathroom may look like a cheap afterthought. True universal design, on the other hand, incorporates such features in a more natural looking, organic way that promotes ease of use and inclusion. The result is a comfortable environment where all are free to move about and enjoy the activities of daily life.
If you've been thinking about making your home more accessible through universal design, Blackbird Design Studio can help! Click here to contact us and schedule a consultation!