design, also called barrier-free design, focuses on making the
house safe and accessible for everyone, regardless of age, physical
ability, or stature. Most of us think immediately of ramps and
grab bars when we think of accessible housing, but universal design
goes far beyond that while remaining largely invisible to the
casual observer. In fact, applying universal design concepts such
as wider doors and hallways makes a house feel more spacious.
Here are some steps you can take to make your house more user-friendly.
pulls instead of knobs on cabinets and drawers. These are much
easier on arthritic hands.
a contrasting edge-band on countertops. This makes it easier
for someone with failing eyesight to see the edge of the countertop.
Anyone navigating a dimly lit kitchen for a middle-of-the-night
snack will also appreciate this touch.
varied-height cabinets and countertops. This is particularly
appreciated in multi-cook families where, say, a very tall parent
and a child may be working together to prepare a meal. Countertop
heights can also be varied to accommodate particular tasks.
For example, bakers value lower countertops for rolling out
pastry and kneading dough.
flexible appliances. Items such as under-the-counter refrigerator
drawers make a kitchen more accessible for someone in a wheelchair.
They are still pretty expensive, but the price is certain to
drop over time. Elevating the dishwasher accommodates people
in wheelchairs as well as people who may not be able to bend
easily. You can even get a sink that raises or lowers at the
touch of a button.
accommodate a cook who uses a wheelchair, leave open space under
the sink, cooktop, and prep counter, opt for higher toekicks
on the base cabinets, install pull-down shelves in the upper
cabinets, and choose a range with controls at the front or to
the side of the cooktop (choose a model with a safety lock-out
option if there are also young children in the house).