Check out my building blog to learn more about construction for your home or office in Austin! David L. Traut, President, CAPS Certified (512)444-0097

What is Universal Design and the Seven Principles Involved?

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Tue, May 16, 2023 @ 08:05 AM

Perhaps you haven't personally experienced a problematic living situation concerning your home yet, but you might know someone who has. It could concern a family member, a friend, or just a person in your neighborhood. These unfortunate scenarios are too common in our society, as everyone is living longer due to modern medicine; but this situation is not age-related. Health problems can appear unexpectedly at any age. Our traditional homes commonly lack accessibility for any residents or their visitors who are even slightly challenged. The truth is, all of our houses are built for unchallenged, healthy people of a "normal" size. The moment any diversity to what each of us knows as near perfect health expresses itself, the realization we need a better and more adaptable "mousetrap" comes to mind in regards to our home. The doors in the house aren't wide enough, the rooms are too small, the hallway is too narrow, the floors aren't level or are slippery, the stairs aren't negotiable, the bathroom facilities aren't useable, and the kitchen is not user- friendly. The list goes on-and-on when you are living in a status-quo home. But now people can become educated and know what to ask for before a life-changing problem arises. Rest assured, you have the ability to proactively prepare your traditional home for future life changes before they happen. Hence, there is no need for you or your family to suddenly become trapped inside it's walls! Let's come to understand a design solution exists which has been stigmatized because of it's decades-long association with disability. Learn to ask for it by name.

Universal Design, also known as barrier-free design and design for all, refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to non-challenged people, older people, people of any age who are mentally or physically challenged, and people overcoming an illness or physically-altering accident. In general, it represents a universal need in future housing and pertains to adding safety and accessibility in an existing home for all people regardless of their size or physical well being at any time. The purpose of the design is to provide equal access to anyone into and throughout the home. Universal Design adaptations have a broad market appeal to everyone for achieving ease-of-use and convenience accommodating a certain reality. The reality is that all people exist along a continuum of human performance as per their personal traits and characteristics regardless of their age. A universal approach to design takes into account that everyone has varying degrees of ability and disability; rather than someone is either fully-functional or disabled. Universal Design is neither a design style or trend but is an approach to designing home access for as wide a range of diverse people as possible.

As a solution to our inaccessible housing predicament, applying Universal Design is important because current design standards for housing do not address the design needs of more than one-third of our population. Too often, the designers of homes allow the built environment to define the capabilities of the resident, rather than the opposite being true. That has always been the problem evidenced by the current inaccessible housing inventory. People typically purchase a house according to their needs of the day, never considering their future needs. This way of thinking has perpetuated the problem of inaccessibility within traditional homes. Incorporating Universal Design principles into today's houses allows for our antiquated architecture to be redefined by both our changing human needs and abilities. It has the ability to span all generations of inhabitants. The sooner the principles exist in a home, the longer it can be enjoyed by everyone; because no one is excluded. Home accessibility should be a concern no matter what your age. If your concerns are not for you, barring any life changing accident, they could concern the accessibility and safety for another generation's independence. As we become more life-experienced, our society is beginning to realize our homes should be flexible to accommodate future life changes. This benefit alone will afford adapted housing the ability to conform to our needs. Hence, society will understand the significance of a forever home. The physical life changes involved can be long-term or of short duration while recovering from an accident or disease. Regardless, the home is prepared for what comes next through the use of Universal Design.

The recent Aging in Place phenomena deals with reactive home modifications to existing homes due to health changes of one or more residents. The adaptations allow the inhabitants to remain within their home safely as they age. A planned Universal Design home quietly and proactively addresses abrupt issues without calling attention to anyone. The design simply anticipates the homeowner's changing needs. The modifications can be performed room by room overtime or all at once. Furthermore, Universal Design segues seamlessly into what is required for Aging in Place. However, we cannot conceive or solve all future situations for everyone because we all age differently with our own list of specific needs. In extreme cases, a specialized accessibility design comes into play customized around a single person's needs.

But what about the costs involved in a home using Universal Design? Utilizing Universal Design in a new build home isn't necessarily more expensive than a status-quo traditional inaccessible home. It generally approaches a three-to-four-percent overall increase. The same building techniques are involved in both; but the Universal Design home is designed with more forethought and expertise to improve safety, accessibility, and comfort. Consequently, if you are remodeling an existing home, incorporating the principles of Universal Design, it is more costly on the order of fifteen-to-twenty-percent because you not only have the updated building costs to consider but the demolition costs as well. The same remodeling costs for the preparation of a revised layout are involved with any type renovation prior to the modifications beginning, whether the final appearance is traditional or universal in nature. 

Universal Design/Builds in Austin by T-Square Company

Basically, Universal Design principles involve the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Using Universal Design, there are seven design criteria which must be met to be considered a Universal Design no matter which area of the home you are referring to. Any design must be (1) equally useful to everyone, (2) have flexibility in it's usefulness, (3) be simple and intuitive, (4) be perceived by everyone, (5) have a tolerance for error, (6) require little physical effort, and (7) it must maintain an adequate area for approach and use. Any complexity or discriminating attribute to a design will doom it in terms of  being considered universal in nature. However, what better way can you improve on a home's total visitability?  The term visitability pertains to anyone entering freely into a home, having unrestricted maneuverability throughout the home, and having the ability to enter and utilize a bathroom's facilities without assistance. 

Discover the Principles Of Universal Design

Whether you refer to this needed housing revolution today as accessible design, inclusive design, or Universal Design, it is all about making a home safe, attractive, and easy to use for all residents. It has nothing to do with the age, agility, or status of life for anyone living within the home. The main intent of this way of thinking is to be sure the inhabitants and their visitors are equally able to enjoy their home throughout their entire lifetime. This way Aging in Place can be accomplished without the expense and hassle of having to make periodic or interfering abrupt changes to the home to meet a person's ever-changing physical needs. With Universal Design, you have the ability to proactively plan for all stages of your life cycle using forethought which, once discovered, you ultimately find is just common sense. Even if you are in perfect health, you can be disrupted by a minor mishap. A more serious injury changes things forever once you no longer have all your abilities.  Universal design ideas do not strictly deal with accessibility or Aging in Place design and does not implement precise ADA standards; but it does offer flexibility to add accessories now and later to those planning ahead or to the end-user. It also provides for a wide range of human performance characteristics for the way people use spaces within their homes including well integrated usability features. Hence, a Universal Design/build project is appealing to all users.  

Can you envision building a house as a young adult that you can live in safely and comfortably while you age no matter what your basic physical needs require? In this home, visitors are never problematic if they exhibit limited mobility or other issues. This flexible Universal Design home contains wider doorways of 36-inches or more and adequately lit hallway widths of 42-48-inches to accommodate a stroller, wheelchair or walker. There is a wide-open feeling of comfort throughout the house's main living areas in the bathroom, kitchen, and living area that do not restrict moving about. A five-foot turning radius is observed throughout the home. Wood blocking is installed behind the finished walls in all wet areas to accommodate secure grab bar installations at the proper time. The towel racks in the kitchen are installed so they can double as grab bars once you become unsteady from lack of balance. All the no-step entryways from the front door to the shower entrance are smooth to prevent tripping from high thresholds and all flooring transitions are level. Non-slip flooring is installed, especially in wet areas, using cork or smaller floor tiles which in turn increase friction from the grout lines. All doors and faucets are controlled by lever hardware. Sinks inside the bathroom and kitchen have roll-under capability. Within the sink base cabinets, doors or roll-out shelving are installed until the roll-under design is needed. Full-extension drawers and pull-out shelves are installed in lieu of doors. The cabinet tops and work areas throughout the house are placed at varying heights to promote adaptability. This universal designed home is barrier-free without looking modified and is accessible to everyone no matter their age, size, or capability of movement. Furthermore, this home is usable by everyone from your father to your son.

David L. Traut, CAPS the owner of T-Square Company in Austin, Texas is one of the select group of professionals to earn the Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) designation, identifying him as a home remodeler and builder with the skills and knowledge necessary to remodel or modify a home to meet the unique needs of the older population, disabled owners, or their visitors. Consequently, David is certified in Universal Design in the US and Australia. T-Square Company is a Universal Design contractor offering a full compliment of Aging in Place services including bathroom modifications for elderly clients with special needs. Each design/build project contains the principles of Universal Design. The modifications will be customized to fit your personal needs while increasing your accessibility. Call 512-444-0097 today to begin the accessible second chapter of your life while remaining safe and secure in your existing home. CAPS #1636580

As an answer to his clients requests over the years, David has recently published a book entitled "Age in Place at Home: Adapting the Home Environment for All Generations". The book reflects on thirty years of accessibility improvements and identifies why our traditional homes specifically lack this very basic need. It is available on Amazon and stands as a reference book for increasing home accessibility using the principles of Universal Design in every room of the home. The book dwells on this inclusive design concept as a solution to our current housing dilemma.

     Certified Aging In Place Specialist


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Home Modifications For The Elderly and Disabled/What is ADA-Compliant?

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Mon, May 01, 2023 @ 08:05 AM

Let's face it, accessible homes are needed by all of us at some time during our lives. This is true whether it's for ourselves, a family member, or a guest. The need for handicap remodeling is certainly not driven by age but is a result of life's experience. Any family living with disability among any of it's generations within the group can always benefit from additional accessibility.   This will in turn increase safety and independence for all people involved as they go about life. Except under extreme situations, complete ADA-compliance normally isn't required for a remodel used to increase residential accessibility. The ADA rules are a great place to begin a design when dealing with a lack of home accessibility. However, any and all compliant items are a great help for everyone. The ADA specifications deal with explicit measurements, but these stringent rules do not apply to many people. Diverse body sizes and abilities are overlooked, and everyone is dealt with on average. More so, only if modifications involve government backed housing and funding are the ADA guidelines followed to the letter. In other words, the guidelines aren't a consideration when dealing with a single private family residence. So how did the ADA guidelines come about?

During the 1960's, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, protecting the civil rights of those with disabilities. This law was merely a beginning, acknowledging a part of our population was dealing with disabilities. Although this law did not directly address disabilities per se, it served as a foundational piece of civil rights legislation. Disability advocates applied the language used in the Civil Rights Act for later legislation concerning civil rights for those with disabilities. Later on, the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA, as we know it today began. First implemented in 1990, it was our government’s first step toward addressing the needs of citizens living with disabilities. Yet as technology and our culture evolved, so did the challenges faced by disabled Americans. Accessibility became a hurdle not only in the physical world but also the vast digital realm of today. The law is constantly evolving while changing with the times; thereby making everyday life easier for individuals with unique needs. 

Aging in Place bathroom in Austin

Disability is a complex phenomenon representing an interaction between one's physical impairments, the activities they need to perform, and the architectural barriers within the space in which this situation occurs. The terminology and jargon used for disabilities evolves regularly whereas, "handicapped" is no longer acceptable. It is no longer merely a description of intellectual or physical impairments. Each individual with similar impairments describes his or her limitations differently. The blind don't experience their world the same as a person with deafness and so on. Physically challenged has become the more socially accepted description of a person with an impairment, regardless of age. No matter how old you are, you should periodically evaluate your residence to determine whether it suits you not just for the present but the future. Your personal home assessments will be revised every time your living situation changes. Whether childproofing for a newborn, making a home more accessible following a sickness or unfortunate accident to someone in the family, or making a toilet area safer for an aging residing parent, there will be an immediate evolution to your primary domicile. These same life-span design features become more important if you believe you're past the age of wanting to move and are relishing the thought of aging in your own home, no matter what physical limitations you might later develop. This way of thinking has created a niche residential market known as Aging in Place. Solving Aging in Place issues will soon become the number one challenge concerning the present obsolete housing inventory in our country. Incorporating smart aging design concepts like a roll-in-shower into a home will attract a larger group of buyers when you decide to finally sell your home. Preparing for one of those highly likely events involving someone in your home needing room modifications for even a short time while recovering from surgery is surely a wise move. 

Aging In Place Home Modifications

In our daily lives, we all know what to do if the front door is no longer secure, if the kitchen sink backs up, or if the air conditioning suddenly goes out on a hot day. However, for those suddenly facing a catastrophic illness, life can suddenly be a scary and confusing place in which our existing homes are no longer a sanctuary but become a prison within the nightmare of limited accessibility. With the onset of a life-altering illness or catastrophic injury, knowing who to call to solve problems faced performing our usual daily tasks suddenly becomes very challenging.

Knowledgeable construction and design professionals are utilizing the CAPS training across the nation. CAPS stands for Certified Aging In Place Specialist. This designation is taught through the National Association of Home Builders in collaboration with AARP. CAPS connects responsible professionals with home owners who need these services on an ever-increasing basis. CAPS is a nationwide initiative and all active CAPS members can be found at Look for the CAPS designation as a reliable way to identify professionals to modify your home or build a new forever home that is designed for a lifespan. CAPS graduates receive training about the technical/construction aspects and learn about the unique aspects of working with older Americans. They must take formal business training to maintain their credential through continuing education and subscribe to a Code of Ethics.

David L. Traut, CAPS the owner of T-Square Company in Austin, Texas is one of the select group of professionals to earn the Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) designation, identifying him as a home remodeler and builder with the skills and knowledge necessary to remodel or modify a home to meet the unique needs of the older population, disabled owners, or their visitors. T-Square Company offers a full compliment of Aging in Place services including bathroom modifications for elderly clients with special needs. Each design/build project will be customized to fit your personal needs increasing your accessibility. Call 512-444-0097 today to begin the accessible second chapter of your life while remaining safe and secure in your existing home. CAPS #1636580

As an answer to his clients requests over the years, David has recently published a book entitled "Age in Place at Home: Adapting the Home Environment for All Generations". The book reflects on thirty years of accessibility improvements and identifies why our traditional homes specifically lack this very basic need. It is available on Amazon and stands as a reference book for increasing home accessibility using the principles of Universal Design in every room of the home.Certified Aging In Place Specialist






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Home Modifications For Seniors and the Disabled in Austin

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Mon, Apr 03, 2023 @ 10:04 AM

Most recently, architects and designers, with the help of CAPS professionals, have been concentrating on revising home interior design basics. The obvious outcome is slowly we are creating design principles and strategies that accommodate the full range of human capability rather than only the fully-functional part of society. This field of flexible or inclusive design is called Universal Design and its goal is to create easily accessible living and working spaces without exclusion to anyone. Instead of appearing as a hospital extension, the thoughtful new designs are appealing, stylish and comfortable for everyone; not just the elder or severely disabled among us. Therefore, the world of boundaries and barricades is beginning to lessen while we overcome the nationwide problem one home at a time. This is a testament to the senior and disabled population demanding equal access to their homes.

The ADA rules came about in 1990, but unfortunately the ADA rules do not apply to the private residential market. However, these rules can be used as a guide for better accessibility in private homes. Seniors and disabled homeowners must depend on the knowledgeable CAPS certified private sector of builders and remodelers to remedy the housing shortcomings. They will supply the recommended aging in place home modifications. Universally, every home should be accessible to all inhabitants and their visitors regardless of their age, size, or physical abilities. Caring for someone with special needs is a unique and sometimes lifelong challenge. Whether it’s a child born with a disability, someone who has suffered an unfortunate accident or medical event causing them to lose abilities they once had, or an older family member in declining health needing assistance with daily life, the work of a special needs contractor can help make things easier for both the affected individual and their caregivers.


Accessible Bathroom Modifications In Austin

Handicap Bathroom Vanity In Austin

What are the most important home modifications for seniors and the disabled to increase their quality of life? Here is a list of considerations for Aging in Place.

  • Replacing door knobs with lever devices.
  • Widening doorways and hallways.
  • Increasing lighting, especially around stairs and work areas.
  • Installing curb-less showers.
  • Installing grab bars, especially in wet areas.
  • Installing taller comfort-height toilets.
  • Installing ramps to overcome level changes.
  • Installing lever-controlled faucets.
  • Installing hand-held shower devices.
  • Adding a shower bench.
  • Replacing flooring with any non-skid type.
  • Utilizing smart home devices like electric door openers and remote light switches.
  • Undergoing kitchen modifications to increase comfort and safety.
  • Making bathroom modifications to increase safety and usability.
  • Installing a stair lift or vertical platform lift.

T- Square Company located at 14141 Highway 290 West, Suite 800 in Austin, Texas is an industry leading accessible, universal, certified Aging in Place and VA approved Specially Adapted Housing home builder and remodeler. T-Square offers design/build projects for both totally accessible homes from the ground up or complete handicap modifications for existing homes to Age in Place. Be aware, traditional home builders and remodelers do not consider or understand the needs of the disabled or elderly. They deal mainly with the two thirds of our society without disabilities or special needs. They do not have the knowledge or experience required to think out of the box when creating a special needs home. It requires a trained and educated accessible home builder or contractor to visualize special needs modifications for special people.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist

T-Square Company will design and build you an adapted living environment which is completely customized around your abilities. Whether your project concerns home modifications, an accessible addition or wing, or new construction derived from a handicap accessible floor plan they can help you increase your accessibility. David Traut, the president/owner, is CAPS certified (1636580) and has over three decades of building and remodeling experience practicing as a disability contractor for special needs. He wants to help his clients be as self sufficient and independent as possible. Let David show you how to increase the safety and accessibility within your personal living environment.

By the way, David has recently published a book entitled "Age in Place at Home: Adapting the Home Environment for All Generations". It is available on Amazon and stands as a reference book for increasing home accessibility through Universal Design.

Home Accessibility Help

 Contact T-Square Company today at 512-444-0097 so we can show you how to begin a new accessible chapter in your lifetime.


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ADA Contractor/Austin, Texas/T-Square Company

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Mon, Mar 07, 2022 @ 11:03 AM

Millions of Americans are living longer and have more active lives.  While this group is embracing newly found and changing lifestyles, a need to revitalize their home environments has come about.  Identifying this major opportunity while developing the skills to interact with those needful homeowners has created a new type of elder remodeling.  A certified aging-in-place specialist or CAPS home remodeler has completed the coursework and training in how to help keep existing homeowners in their homes longer. They will be listed in a national directory compiled by the NAHB in Washington. The CAPS certificate holders act as ADA Contractors utilizing the ADA published rules. Their final accessible designs involve the ADA handbook as a guide but are not strictly held to all the ADA standards and regulations because they are funded with private monies. However, accessible CAPS designs are customized around the client's abilities. 

The National Association of Home Builders, in partnership with the AARP and Home Innovation Research Labs, created the CAPS program, which includes training and education on the technical, business management, and customer service skills essential to compete in the fastest-growing segment of the residential remodeling industry--home modifications for aging in place and ADA accessibility in Austin, Texas.  David L. Traut, CAPS the owner of T-Square Company in Austin, Texas is one of the select group of professionals nationwide to earn the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation, identifying him as a home remodeler and builder with the skills and knowledge necessary to remodel or modify a home to meet the unique needs of the older population, disabled owners, or their visitors. T-Square Company is an ADA contractor in Austin, Texas abiding by the published ADA rules for their extremely disabled clients.

There are three categories of aging-in-place customers. Those who are simply and wisely planning ahead for their futures to remain in their present homes. The second category concerns those people who know they have a chronic medical disorder and need to prepare in advance for accessibility issues that will come as a result of their disease. People with diseases that are constantly causing increased physical or mental changes to their being are a good representative of this second group. The third group involves those people who either have had a chronic problem that has progressed severely altering their mobility or those who have sustained a life-altering tragedy such as being involved in an accident.  All of these groups will drive the future metamorphosis of existing inaccessible dwellings requiring bathrooms with disability access. The goal of an Austin ADA compliant remodel or an accessible bathroom design is to make the bathroom a safe space for everyone who uses the facilities. Aging in place services use design techniques to accommodate wheelchair users and can make the bathroom more comfortable for all generations with or without specific needs. It is important to carefully outline the scope of work during the remodeling of an accessible bathroom by first taking inventory of the user's capabilities, needs, and preferences.  All disability home remodeling or disability bath remodels in Austin must be done considering all the data provided by the client, his or her family, and any caretakers involved. CAPS certified remodeling and aging in place design must be carried out by aging in place specialists and residential remodeling professionals.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist


Wheelchair Accessible Kitchen in Austin


Home Accessibility Help

Many people find themselves needing accessible homes for themselves or family members. There are approximately 30 million Americans using wheelchairs and the number of people who need accessible homes will continue to increase as disabled and aging people are finding more ways to remain living in their homes. One important way to increase independent living is making a home accessible to any individual personal needs. Home modifications can increase safety, accessibility, and independence for people who want to live independently.

The three main rooms involved in aging in place home modifications are the bathroom, the kitchen, and the family room in that order.  These areas make up the most occupied spaces of any home and will be connected by a designated accessible route.  Here we will need access through wider doorways, non-slip floor surfaces, and adequate cabinet and plumbing fixture accessibility.  What is more important is that we must observe safety for everyone as the baby boomers choose to age in place within their homes.  Just remember one thing and dispel any myth that aging in place construction and remodeling must appear institutional or out of the ordinary. When the work is done with style and taste it will only compliment the home.

An accessible bathroom should try to maintain a five-foot turning radius for wheelchair use if at all possible. Have your plumbing facilities brought into compliance to enable freedom and safety.  The use of grab bars within the tub or shower and around the toilet can be very helpful in ensuring your safety for maneuverability.  These should be installed at 34 inches above the finished floor to safeguard your use of them.  Having roll under capability for the new 34" high vanity can be very helpful while you are in the wheelchair.  Exact clearances of 27" high and 32" in width should be complied with underneath the vanity.  The proper safety equipment should be installed on the plumbing pipes that don't allow scalding of your legs. The toilet may need to be replaced providing a comfort level height that is around 18" in height for easier access.  The tub or shower may need to be altered to become only a shower with roll-in or possibly transfer capabilities.  All of these changes must be done along with the  ADA guidelines for your safety.

The door width requirement of 32" or more will be true for any room in the house if you are to enter them barrier-free.  The kitchen, your bedroom, and any other rooms you require accessibility to enter could be affected.  Even the closet door within your bedroom will need to be wide enough so that you can manage to get your clothes to dress.  Any other bedrooms that you may need to enter with your wheelchair will also need alterations.

The accessible kitchen is another story altogether.  You will need the roll-under capability as mentioned above at the kitchen sink, cooktop, or food prep area. Upper kitchen cabinet heights become an issue and require pull-down mechanisms for better access. Multiple height worksurfaces between 28 and 34 inches offer flexibility to all users. No matter what you end up doing, make sure to hire an experienced building professional who understands the ADA guidelines for your well-being. Contact T-Square Company at 512-444-0097 today for all your newly discovered accessibility needs.

Improve Handicap Accessibility


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