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

Future Home Building Using Universal Design

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Wed, Dec 30, 2020 @ 15:12 PM

The present out of control housing market situation prompted a search for answers solving the question of how to create houses capable of meeting the needs of tomorrow while accommodating future life changes. There is no one size fits all home design because everyone’s life experience is unique to them creating a diverse society with diverse physical needs. Using Universal Design, the wide ranging abilities of the homeowner is a major consideration for all successful inclusive and adaptable designs in homes. The absence of the Universal Design principles entering into all existing home architectural endeavors is perpetuating the lack of accessible housing urgently needed for the lifespan of every homeowner. To increase the acceptance of this design concept by everyone, especially the consumer, Universal Design must become a topic of conversation through knowledge and basic understanding. This depends on the members of the broadest populations’ acknowledgement of the need for the use of this practical idea.

Universal Design Kitchen in Austin

Universal Design plays a significant role in the future accessibility of all home designs. Homeowners must base design decisions on the seven (or eight) principles of Universal Design. Deciding which universal features to include in future forever homes is the most alluring question. Each principle is very useful in itself. The more principles involved in the design process, the greater the adaptable outcome of the home. After all, the smart forward thinking homes of the future depict long term sustainable assets for life allowing Aging in Place to seamlessly follow as people age and evolve. It is true Universal Design emerged out of the accessible and adaptive architectural movement; however, it constantly attempts to combine aesthetics with basic core values for every user. While moving us toward an accessible future, appearing invisible, Universal Design recognizes peoples’ bodies, needs, and lifestyles constantly change along a continuum due to the aging process. Universal Design acknowledges too that everyone ages differently as individuals. One person’s disability type is not experienced like another’s. It is better to live in a more open and comfortable Universal Design home with the flexibility of evolving with the homeowner rather than one which at some uncertain time becomes an impasse during the homeowner’s lifetime.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist

Embracing Universal Design with its many values and advantages for all people during timely remodeling projects or while building a new home is needed if society is ever going to escape the inaccessible cookie cutter homes of today. Additionally, this design technique offers a win-win solution helping solve problems encountered by multi-generational households. The multi-generational homes of today create the greatest personal accessibility challenges for all the generations involved. The application of Universal Design principles is desperately needed to sustain the choice of living environments for these diversified families. Universal Design homes have the unique ability of simultaneously accommodating strollers, walkers, or wheelchairs within the home without regard to a person’s size, age, or abilities. Furthermore, these homes contain lasting value if the owner ever decides to sell appealing to all society groups. To the uninformed, the folklore associated with Universal Design has stigmatized the process in home building today. This has much to do with why such a unique building concept is not greeted with open arms by the consumer. Beliefs like, it costs more, it takes up too much space, it will make my home have less resale value, it will look institutional, or only a few people could benefit from it represent a select few.

While Universal Design sounds appealing in conversations, it is rare to actually witness it in the built environment. The Universal Design movement recognizes its slow acceptance hinges on historic ties related to being a disability solution. This way of thinking causes implications for consumers and the world of home design presenting a huge misconception. Universal Design never distanced itself from the need for increased accessibility during the disability movement of the 80’s and therefore is mired in ADA jargon producing an indelible unfocused brand. As an inclusive design, Universal Design pertains to overcoming the barriers and stereotypes associated with its terminology in order to stand out as the next and final trend in future housing. Universal Design has no limits for the varying groups of people it helps. Every family member is included when using this design methodology whether they are abled or disabled, short or tall, young or old. With education, people understand Universal Design is the most revolutionary element in housing design today. Once realized how the principles of Universal Design affect everyone in the quest for maximum inclusion, consumers might start paying better attention to this logical building concept. Future home dwellers are fortunate in having this transitional and adaptable design concept in their vocabulary. Possibly they distinguish the designs flexibility as the gateway for tomorrow homes built and designed for everyone at every age. Only then, when people grasp the importance of Universal Design, does it become an everyday building term and a much needed household solution. No longer are personal desires for Aging in Place creating total disruption during life’s waning years. It is successfully accomplished seamlessly following the accessibility offered by Universal Design.

Principles Of Universal Design

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Universal Bathroom Design

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Wed, Dec 02, 2020 @ 11:12 AM

Including Universal Design ideas when periodically remodeling anywhere within the home and especially in the bathroom means the design personally fits a family for a longer period of time. Universal Design contains the natural ability to adapt with people. Many times, an existing bathroom’s layout is changed regarding fixture arrangement and orientation to increase efficiency. Remodeling an existing bathroom using Universal Design possibly involves changing the wall configuration for a more open feeling. Additional space is needed in the bathroom once caretakers providing assistance are required for aging adults or young children.

wheelchair bathroom design in Austin

Modifying the bathroom following practiced wheelchair accessibility guidelines is a great place to start a Universal Design remodel in any home. The expanded clearances involved create a more comfortable and roomy environment for every family member. Universal Design principles provide access for the users of wheelchairs or walkers including everyone else including children. A functional, well organized, and attractive layout placing the items used in close proximity and within reach of the users meets the needs of most homeowners including children and aging adults. This includes people with limited mobility or impaired reach due to physical or medical conditions. The diversity of all people is accounted for. Therefore, it represents a perfect design concept for multi-generational households. Regarding the current multi-generational living environments there are varying participants of many ages with multiple sizes and abilities within the family group indicating the need for Universal Design’s use throughout the home. A major difference in these special family units is a better probability function and dexterity is negatively affected by a group member. 

Planning for the future involving Universal Design principles is so important with any remodel for both now and in the future. Using Universal Design to remodel a bathroom space increases aesthetics, sustainability, usefulness, and safety while lending itself to privacy in a functional surrounding. Universal Design bathroom accessibility includes opening up the area with a clear five foot diameter in case a wheelchair is needed, adding grab bars or handrails throughout the home (or at least blocking for them for a later time when needed), adding a seat within a roll in shower, lowering upper cabinets and counter tops, providing an accessible comfort height toilet, offering at least one vanity sink with roll under capability, adding non-slip flooring, widening hallways, and widening doors. Privacy, sense of belonging, sense of control, and the feelings of safety and security make up the quality of life for any home and are considered for any successful Universal Design project. The reasons for embracing these ideas go beyond aging and disability. They include being an asset for children, is inviting to visitors, it promotes long term health and wellness, works well for seniors, all this paired with the fact it is smart and invisible. 

Bathroom Remodels

Designing task oriented bathroom fixture locations takes into account their use, placement, or how they make up the bathroom environment. This defines the current way of thinking universally. A clear floor space of 30 by 48 inches is provided for approaching all bathroom fixtures. These areas can overlap one another and the five foot turning radius within the design. Always choose quality plumbing fixtures and fittings easily controlled using a single hand motion or a closed fist. Motion controlled sensor fixtures offering hands free operation are a possibility when specifying fixtures and finishes. Sometimes, the master bath today is one of the busiest rooms in the home. It has the potential of becoming the family bathroom. If young children are a part of the family, bath time transforms the bathroom into a very busy and crowded area. If aging parents are visiting, they also need their time in the bathroom because it is a larger and safer space.  

Wheelchair Accessible Remodeling        

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Maneuvering In and Around The Accessible Home

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Wed, Nov 18, 2020 @ 17:11 PM

The number one safety hazard for elderly or disabled people of any age is negotiating level changes both outside and within the home--steps at the entry, stairs between floors, curbs to step over when entering the bath or shower, and being able to access patios, decks, and terraces. When Universal Design is correctly incorporated into a home’s layout, these flexible houses accommodate the needs of their owners and their visitors even as those needs evolve over time. Barrier free homes are functional and comfortable as well as accessible to everyone.

Visitability or the lack thereof begins at the curb for every home. This term refers to how easy it is for all people coming by to pay a visit or stay with the homeowner regardless of their physical abilities. Occupants and visitors are capable of entering an accessible bathroom located on the same floor representing the visitability of the home. Ideally, the entry into the house is through a 36 inch wide door having an ADA threshold to create a no step entry.  Entrance is obtained using an easily graspable lever style lock.

Harper VA 010

The accessible entrance is a great place to begin an accessible route for most homes. Once inside the structure a new set of problems concerning accessibility are discovered along the extended accessible route if the entire first floor is not on one single level. The designated accessible route continues into all of the most used rooms increasing accessibility. All swinging doors are minimally 36 inches wide using Universal Design along the accessible route producing a clear 32 inch wide opening when the door is opened to ninety degrees. Sliding, pocket, and bi-fold doors require less operating approach space because the door is better contained along the wall in which it is mounted.

With increasing age or following a temporary health setback, simply maneuvering around inside the home is increasingly more difficult. This designated route includes a 5 x 5 foot clear turning space required for wheelchairs in the main living area, kitchen, the bedroom, and one bathroom. The selection, placement, and design of doors and doorways influence a wide range of people. The location of the doorways affects furniture placement and usable space within the associated room. This in turn affects the clear floor space and usability of the living environment for someone confined to a wheelchair utilizing the accessible route.

Home Accessibility Help

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What Is Universal Design?

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Tue, Aug 27, 2019 @ 14:08 PM

    Universal design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities and people with disabilities. Universal Design adaptations have a broad market appeal to everyone for achieving ease of use, safety, 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. A universal design approach is appealing to all users no matter their age, size, or physical well being. Universal Design is important because our 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.  Universal Design allows for our antiquated architecture to be defined by both our changing human needs and abilities.

Principles Of Universal Design

     There are seven criteria or principles 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 equally useful to everyone, have flexibility in it's usefulness, be simple and intuitive, be perceived by everyone, have a tolerance for error, require little physical effort, and 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 by everyone? Universal Design is 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.

 

Bathroom Using Universal Design Techniques

     Whether you refer to this revolution in housing today as accessible design, inclusive design, or universal design it is all about making a home safe, attractive, and easy to use for all of the inhabitants. 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 are able to enjoy their home throughout their entire lifetime utilizing the universal design principles which have been designed into their home when it was built. This way aging in place can be accomplished without the expense and hassle of having to make periodic changes to the home to meet a person's ever changing physical needs. You can plan for all stages of your life cycle with some fore thought which, once discovered, you find is just common sense. Even if you are in perfect health you can be disrupted by a minor mishap. A more serious injury can change things forever when you no longer have all your abilities.

     Universal Design principles do not equate to accessibility design even though they both are concerned with ergonomics and human function issues. The ADA guidelines for accessibility were created as a means to help those people with extreme disabilities within our society who are a narrow and specific cross section of the masses. A UD approach broadly takes into account moderate impairments or disabilities, temporary health conditions, and the varying abilities of anyone within a home regardless of their age or size. In other words, an ADA accessible home would be designed for the one person with the disability whereas a UD home is designed for everyone and should be used with any custom tub shower conversion.

     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 of another generation's independence. As we age, our society is beginning to realize that our homes need to accommodate future life changes. The aging in place phenomena deals with home modifications to existing homes while a universal design home would hardly ever need to address these abrupt issues even though we cannot solve all the future issues for everyone. Everyone ages differently and has their own list of specific needs.

Universal Design Techniques

     A sensible checklist for a home concerning Universal Design would include but is not limited to:

1. Limiting stairs while avoiding sunken rooms or multi-story floor plans with raised entrances

2. Automating lighting while controlling groups of lighting throughout the home

3. Including natural lighting through doors, windows, and skylights

4. Using multiple shower heads in the shower with rain, conventional and hand held units

5. Incorporate curbless showers into the design of your bathroom for ease of entering no matter if a wheelchair is ever involved

6. When deciding on your faucets, door handles, or cabinet pulls always pass the closed fist test for operation

7. Use nonslip flooring especially in wet areas using cork or smaller floor tiles which in turn increase the grout lines

8. Create a correct kitchen work area with the shortest distance between the stove, sink, and refrigerator as possible

9. Provide accessible lower storage in base cabinets storing the most used items on pull out shelving or in drawers

10. Lower your upper cabinets to 15" above your 34" universal cabinet top

11. Leave at least 42" between your cabinets when 48" is much better

12. Have multiple height cabinet tops to double as work surfaces for those who are seated or other little helpers in the kitchen

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. These adaptations have a broad market appeal to everyone for achieving ease of use, safety, and convenience accommodating a certain reality. That 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. A universal design build project is appealing to all users.

Aging in place home modifications are available through T-Square Company in Austin. Each universal design/build situation will be customized to fit your personal needs. Call 512-444-0097 today to begin to prepare for the accessible second chapter of your life while remaining safe and secure in your existing home.

CAPS 1636580

Certified Aging In Place Specialist

 

 

 

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ADA Wheelchair Ramp

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 @ 12:07 PM

ADA wheelchair ramp guidelines are as follows:

  • The minimum ramp width must be 36 inches minimum but 48 inches is preferable.
  • Ramps must have edge protection to keep anyone from slipping off their surface in the form of a raised outer curb or railing.
  • All wheelchair ramps must have level or flat unobstructed landings at the top and bottom of the rise being overcome that are 60 inches by 60 inches to provide a proper five foot wheelchair turning radius. The landing areas cannot have more than a 30 feet long ramp separating them. If the rise distance requires longer than a 30 foot run to overcome it then a series of landings can be used creating a switchback design.
  • Thirty six inch handrails are required on both sides of all ramps that rise steeper than 6 inches from the ground below.
  • All surfaces must be slip resistant and stable.

     A wheelchair ramp is basically an inclined plane installed in addition to or instead of stairs. Ramps provide wheelchair users or users of other mobility aids as well as people pushing strollers,carts, or other wheeled objects, better access to any building. When designing a wheelchair ramp, you need to consider the users physical limitations. The ramp should be wide enough to be safe and maneuverable and sturdy enough to carry the weight of an electric wheelchair and it's cargo (this can approach 6-700 pounds in many instances) and have a slope that is gradual enough for a manual wheelchair user to navigate. 

ADA wheelchair ramp in Austin, Texas

     Let's say your front porch is 24 inches tall and you are needing easier access to your home while using a wheelchair or walker. A straight ADA prescribed 1:12 ramp will let you overcome the 24 inch porch rise over a span of 24 feet. This is as steep a ramp that is allowed but it may not work for everyone and it may need to be of less slope as in 1:16-1:20. However, if your porch is 36 inches tall, a maximum thirty feet long straight ramp will overcome only 30 inches of the rise of your porch and the remaining six inches can be overcome by an additional six feet long ramp which occurs only after a five feet by five feet flat turning area is installed. This is referred as a switchback and the additional six feet ramp can be added on any face of the flat area. It can be installed as a straight run or as a ninety degree turn in either direction. If adequate room isn't available for the above scenario, then the switchback can occur along the path of travel anywhere as long as the approaching ramp doesn't exceed thirty feet in length which is a maximum. Don't forget to include another flat 60" by 60" landing at the front door and at the end of the incline ramp to allow for greater maneuverability and door operation.

Home Accessibility Help

     Upon entering the home, you can begin the accessible route which is designed to take you through the home to the most visited areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and living areas in that order. Our homes have always been exempt from any and all of the accessibility regulations that have been put in place since 1968 when our Viet Nam veterans were returning home. The new evolving concept known as Universal Design and specialized handicap remodeling contractors for home remodeling is catching on nation wide and has been for several years as a sign of the times.  Universal design techniques used in building makes a home more accessible to all regardless of their mobility or adaptive abilities. An evolution of new products used for disability home modifications is making those homes more accessible and has finally come about in the remodeling industry.

      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.  Schedule an appointment by calling 512-444-0097 today.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist

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Wheelchair Ramp Slope

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 @ 10:06 AM

DETERMINING SLOPE RATIO

     To determine the slope of your ramp and how much horizontal space it will require, use the following calculation per the ADA guidelines: Multiply the inches your ramp will rise by the slope ratio you desire, and then divide the sum by 12 (to convert the horizontal space you'll need to feet). For example: 31-inch rise x 20 slope ratio = 620. That divided by 12 gives you a 51-foot horizontal projection.

ADA wheelchair ramp guidelines are as follows:

  • The minimum ramp width must be 36 inches minimum but 48 inches is preferable.
  • Ramps must have edge protection to keep anyone from slipping off their surface in the form of a raised outer curb or railing.
  • All wheelchair ramps must have level or flat unobstructed landings at the top and bottom of the rise being overcome that are 60 inches by 60 inches to provide a proper five foot wheelchair turning radius. The landing areas cannot have more than a 30 feet long ramp separating them. If the rise distance requires longer than a 30 foot run to overcome it then a series of landings can be used creating a switchback design.
  • Thirty six inch handrails are required on both sides of all ramps that rise steeper than 6 inches from the ground below.
  • All surfaces must be slip resistant and stable.

     A wheelchair ramp can be permanent, semi-permanent or portable providing wheelchair accessibility. Permanent ramps are designed to be bolted or otherwise attached in place. Semi-permanent ramps rest on top of the ground or concrete pad and are commonly used for the short term. Permanent and semi-permanent ramps are usually of aluminum, concrete or wood. Portable ramps are usually aluminum and typically fold for ease of transport. Portable ramps are primarily intended for home and building use but can also be used with vans to load an unoccupied mobility device or to load an occupied mobility device when both the device and the passenger are easy to handle. Ramps can be constructed from a variety of different materials, though some are better than others and friction is of upmost importance.

     A wheelchair ramp is basically an inclined plane installed in addition to or instead of stairs. Ramps provide wheelchair users or users of other mobility aids as well as people pushing strollers,carts, or other wheeled objects, better access to any building. When designing a wheelchair ramp, you need to consider the users physical limitations. The ramp should be wide enough to be safe and maneuverable and sturdy enough to carry the weight of an electric wheelchair and it's cargo (this can approach 6-700 pounds in many instances) and have a slope that is gradual enough for a manual wheelchair user to navigate. 

Austin Wheelchair Ramp

     The ADA guidelines recommend a slope ratio of 1:16 to 1:20. The Americans with Disabilities Guidelines dictate how ramps are designed for all public places. A noted 1:12 ratio is too steep for some people to navigate using a manual wheelchair. This translates into an 8% slope or grade. These ratios must be followed in all public places; however, there are no rules for residential construction. On a residential basis, the ramps can be customized for the user without having to rely on the ADA averages. The ADA rules become simply guidelines. The publication assists private homeowners to create ramps that are usable, safe and sturdy. Homeowners aren't required to follow these slope guidelines but if you have the available area then less slope is always better.

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 an individuals personal needs. Home modifications can increase safety, accessibility, and independence for people who want to live independently.


Handicap Accessibility

 

 

    Whether your family needs the support now or down the road, universal design features are a good long-term investment for the home itself. Whatever your situation please remember to rely on the experiences of a local building professional.  Check out their credentials and references and don't limit yourself to only price checks against other bidders.  Don't make the mistake of letting a cabinet making subcontractor or tile installer play the part of a general contractor.  Their knowledge will be limited to that of the cabinets or tile and not much else.  More importance needs to be given to the reputable contractor's personality and knowledge and how well you two communicate.  You are making your choice for a professional to lead the way enabling your dream to be realized.  You get what you pay for with proper planning when using an experienced and qualified local contractor. T-Square Company is CAPS certified and can be reached at 512-444-0097 in Austin, Texas.  Find out how a design/build remodeling contractor can save you money during your next project.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist

 

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Wheelchair Ramp Specifications

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Tue, Jun 11, 2019 @ 17:06 PM

     A wheelchair ramp is basically an inclined plane installed in addition to or instead of stairs. Ramps provide wheelchair users or users of other mobility aids as well as people pushing strollers,carts, or other wheeled objects, better access to any building. When designing a wheelchair ramp, you need to consider the users physical limitations. The ramp should be wide enough to be safe and maneuverable and sturdy enough to carry the weight of an electric wheelchair and it's cargo (this can approach 6-700 pounds in many instances) and have a slope that is gradual enough for a manual wheelchair user to navigate. Safety is a paramount concern for the user.

wheelchair ramp in Austin

     The ADA guidelines recommend a slope ratio of 1:16 to 1:20. The Americans with Disabilities Guidelines dictate how ramps are designed for all public places. A noted 1:12 ratio is too steep for some people to navigate using a manual wheelchair. This translates into an 8% slope or grade. These ratios must be followed in all public places; however, there are no rules for residential construction. On a residential basis, the ramps can be customized for the user without having to rely on the ADA averages. The ADA rules become simply guidelines. The publication assists private homeowners to create ramps that are usable, safe and sturdy. Homeowners aren't required to follow these slope guidelines but if you have the available area then less slope is always better.

Home Accessibility Help

ADA wheelchair ramp guidelines are as follows:

  • The minimum ramp width must be 36 inches minimum but 48 inches is preferable.
  • Ramps must have edge protection to keep anyone from slipping off their surface in the form of a raised outer curb or railing.
  • All wheelchair ramps must have level or flat unobstructed landings at the top and bottom of the rise being overcome that are 60 inches by 60 inches to provide a proper five foot wheelchair turning radius. The landing areas cannot have more than a 30 feet long ramp separating them. If the rise distance requires longer than a 30 foot run to overcome it then a series of landings can be used creating a switchback design.
  • Thirty six inch handrails are required on both sides of all ramps that rise steeper than 6 inches from the ground below.
  • All surfaces must be slip resistant and stable.

DETERMINING SLOPE RATIO

     To determine the slope of your ramp and how much horizontal space it will require, use the following calculation per the ADA guidelines: Multiply the inches your ramp will rise by the slope ratio you desire, and then divide the sum by 12 (to convert the horizontal space you'll need to feet). For example: 31-inch rise x 20 slope ratio = 620. That divided by 12 gives you a 51-foot horizontal projection.

     A wheelchair ramp can be permanent, semi-permanent or portable. Permanent ramps are designed to be bolted or otherwise attached in place. Semi-permanent ramps rest on top of the ground or concrete pad and are commonly used for the short term. Permanent and semi-permanent ramps are usually of aluminum, concrete or wood. Portable ramps are usually aluminum and typically fold for ease of transport. Portable ramps are primarily intended for home and building use but can also be used with vans to load an unoccupied mobility device or to load an occupied mobility device when both the device and the passenger are easy to handle. Ramps can be constructed from a variety of different materials, though some are better than others and friction is always your friend.

Handicap Accessibility

 

    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 an individuals personal needs. Home modifications can increase safety, accessibility, and independence for people who want to live independently.

    Whether your family needs the support now or down the road, universal design features are a good long-term investment for the home itself. Whatever your situation please remember to rely on the experiences of a local building professional.  Check out their credentials and references and don't limit yourself to only price checks against other bidders.  Don't make the mistake of letting a cabinet making subcontractor or tile installer play the part of a general contractor.  Their knowledge will be limited to that of the cabinets or tile and not much else.  More importance needs to be given to the reputable contractor's personality and knowledge and how well you two communicate.  You are making your choice for a professional to lead the way enabling your dream to be realized.  You get what you pay for with proper planning when using an experienced and qualified local contractor. T-Square Company is CAPS certified and can be reached at 512-444-0097 in Austin, Texas.  Find out how a design/build remodeling contractor can save you money during your next project.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist

 

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ADA Vanity Height

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 @ 15:04 PM

     Modifying your bathroom following practiced wheelchair accessibility guidelines is a great place to start any universal remodel. This will provide access for both wheelchairs and walkers. Furthermore, you can help avoid many future injuries. Any wet area like the bath is the most dangerous of all your home's surrounding living space and is the most common area for falls and slips. Simply getting in or out of the tub or shower, using the toilet and sink, or just maneuvering over wet surfaces can be hazardous to your health. Installing properly positioned grab bars to increase safety is a great place to spend your money on a limited budget around the shower, toilet, and tub.

ADA Vanity In Austin

     Traditionally bathroom vanities were constructed so the finished cabinet top was 30” AFF above finished floor.This meant that taller people had to bend over and stand away from the sink in order to use it.This puts added stress on the lower back and legs diminishing the comfort factor.Typically bathroom vanities are 21" deep and approximately 29" tall. The depth is not a problem but most folks would prefer a universal design height of 34". Sinks shouldn't be mounted higher than 34 inches from the floor to the top of the cabinet top for an under mount or drop in model. The sinks should not exceed six inches in depth and should be installed within three inches from the front of the overhanging cabinet top edge. The ADA vanity cabinet or even a simple wall hung sink should have a knee clearance below of 27 inches high and be at a minimum 30 inches wide by 11-25 inches deep. A 9" high clear kick area (by 6" deep) at the floor should be maintained for a full height cabinet and be approximately ten inches deep according to the cabinet depth. Remember twenty four inches is the maximum reach distance while sitting in a wheelchair. The choice of sink styles depends on the personal preference of the user. Be sure the lavatory controls are easily controlled with lever or paddle handles and are capable of being operated with one hand and not requiring tight grasping, pinching, or pinching of the wrist. Knobs, discs, or ball type handles can be hard to operate by anyone with soapy hands and more so by someone having an arthritic condition or other ailments. The closer the sink valves can be toward the front of the sink the better. This can be accomplished by following the curved outline of the sink.

Home Accessibility Help

     Bathroom cabinets vary by style and usability. There are basically two styles of ADA bathroom vanities that comply with an unobstructed 27" tall roll under area below the sink. ADA sinks with a rear drain location provide for better plumbing drain hook ups. This modification has everything to do with both the water supply lines and the waste line connecting the sink. There must be provisions made to protect the user from being scalded when coming into contact with any one of the plumbing pipes serving the sink. These connecting pipes may become heated merely by the water passing through them creating the problem. The open type model should always receive both waste and supply insulating jackets applied directly to the pipes providing protection for the wheelchair user. The closed model concealing the pipes will be equipped with a removable face or face board covering the pipes. This pipe concealing panel must be installed at the correct wheelchair user clearance angle. This allows for the needed unobstructed legroom required for the user. The vanity can extend beyond the sink but the area containing the sink is required to have this roll under capability. This section of the vanity top must not be any taller than 34 inches above the finished floor with sufficient lower leg clearance. Clear unobstructed reach distances around the counter top area must be observed. Any motion controlled sensors integrated into the various dispensing devices and/or plumbing fixtures throughout the restroom present a true hands free benefit to all the restroom users. If these aren't in the budget then at least wrist handles used for controlling the faucet can be incorporated into the design of the vanity.

     To assure a clear floor space the lavatory must be installed at 24" from any side wall measuring from the center line of the sink. The distance from one sink to another if using a double lavatory layout should be at least 30" center to center. In the case of wall hung freestanding sinks the minimum distance between them should be 4" between the sink edges.  The clear floor space of 30 by 48 inches must be provided for accessing all bathroom fixtures and these areas can overlap one another. The adjoining and overlapping wheelchair turning space should be an unobstructed sixty inches in diameter. A wheelchair turning space could utilize a T-shaped space considering a sixty inch square having two 12"x24" areas removed from each corner of the square from the same side. This will be a 36" wide base with two 36" wide arms. T-shaped wheelchair turning spaces can include on one arm. In this case the clear width at the cabinet should be 36" to use the space as part of the T-turn.

     Bathroom vanities with universal height cabinet tops and open knee spaces are taking over the marketplace. These new residential vanities do not need to look institutional even though they are wheelchair accessible. They can be designed like any other piece of fine furniture. Scalding must be guarded against by using either insulating pipe wrap or a removable panel for the plumbing.

ADA Bathroom Cabinets

 

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Accessible Toilets

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 @ 15:04 PM

     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 an individual’s personal needs. Home modifications making homes wheelchair accessible can increase safety, accessibility, and independence for people who want to live independently.

Accessible toilet in Austin

     The toilet is a uniquely useful fixture in the bathroom for waste disposal.Toilets are typically chosen to match the rest of the plumbing fixtures within the room. These waste ridding devices have evolved very little over the years but require hand strength and agility to be operated correctly. They are not manufactured with accompanying handholds compounding to the difficulty of some users. The seat height of toilets is a critical consideration with respect to comfort and are now available in increased heights ranging from 18-19 inches in height eliminating the deep knee bend or back aches needed for seating. This is a wider accepted choice than the toilet heights we have grown accustomed to at 14-15”. Additionally raised or elevated seats can be installed if needed.  These will provide an additional five inches in height but the elevated seats will most assuredly cause problems if children are also using the facilities. However, lower seat heights are problematic and can also hinder the ease of transferring from a wheelchair and back again. Assisting electrical power toilet lifts with attached grab bars can help raise and lower the user if required. Grab bars should be installed on at least two sides of the toilet. All grab bars must be secured into either adequate wood blocking or existing wall studs so they can hold at least 250 pounds of downward force. Creating a toilet within an open area which is approachable from both sides and not in a closet is much more accessible. Accessible toilets should never be placed in small alcoves. The old idea of placing them within a private room works well for those with a full range of mobility.  They should have a minimum clear width of 60" optimally and sufficient space to accommodate a wheelchair to the sides of the toilet or in front for transferring to and from the toilet. Toilet seats are also available with a heat feature and some have the ability to self-close or have a night light. Wall mounted toilets offer more accessible areas underneath for cleaning versus floor mounted models but are more expensive and not a readily available. An add on bidet attachment installed on a regular toilet can be handy and help improve hygiene especially when a caretaker is involved.  This is a cheaper idea than a free standing bidet and also concerns precious space.

Home Accessibility Help

     Toilets need to have the flush handle located toward the middle of the room and be of the correct height for comfort. Proper clearance from any walls (18" from any side wall to the center of the toilet) must be observed and the clear 30 inch by 48 inch approach to the toilet must be maintained. Grab bars should be installed both on the rear and sidewall of the toilet at 34 inches above the floor. If no side wall is present within a reasonable reach distance from the toilet then you can opt for a folding model as in the above photo.  Any bathroom transformation needs to include universal design characteristics and be accessible to everyone in the home.

Handicap Home Modifications

     Designing task oriented bathroom fixtures without consideration for their use, placement, or how they make up the bathroom environment makes up the current way of thinking universally.  The tub/shower, sink, and toilet are used individually and designing for the greatest approach clearance within clear spaces.  Observing minimal distance to traverse for each fixture location should take president within any accessible design.  This individual design will provide the greatest use of each fixture for the bathroom layout.  Emphasis must be placed on fixture placement to accomplish certain tasks but grouping these tasks where possible can be beneficial to everyone. The greater the proximity of the fixtures, the more efficient and convenient the design.  The universal bathroom can be a more enabling environment focusing on an individual’s capabilities with regards to the individual’s surroundings.

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Applying Principles Of Universal Design In Austin

Posted byDavid L. Traut, CAPS on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 @ 15:07 PM

     Universal design is 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. Some universal design/build ideas just make good sense. Once you bring them into your home, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them.

Universal Design In Austin

    Can you envision building a house as a young adult that you can live in comfortably while you age no matter what your basic physical needs require? This evolving home will contain wide doorways and hallways that can accommodate both a stroller and a wheelchair or walker. There will be a wide open feeling throughout the house's main living areas in the bathroom, kitchen, and living area that do not restrict moving about. Your universally designed home has the capability to age with you and should not need further modifications to accommodate future life changes for any of it's family members. This universal designed home is barrier free without looking modified and is accessible to everyone no matter of their age, size, or capability of movement. This home will be accessible to everyone from your father to your son. People's personal needs vary with age and the Universal Design of products, services, and environments provide adaptations for aging in place to everyone regardless of their age, ability, or situation. Universal Design becomes invisible when incorporated into a home remodel and is only present when help with accessibility is needed. Furthermore, an appealing universal design project creates a greater resale potential. Aging in place construction drastically provides immediate accessibility while universal design techniques provide for gradual changes for accessibility now and when needed in the future. Both Universal Design and Aging In Place building concepts are not age related but each has to do with the dwelling we choose to live in for as long as possible and the extent of modifications that will be needed to accomplish this life choice.

Increase Your Accessibility

    Universal Design isn’t just for the elderly or the permanently disabled. As Americans age, they’re beginning to realize that their homes need to adapt for future life needs. Consumers are more cognizant today of the benefits of a universally designed home, but they may not realize it can be beautiful as well as functional. Everyone can use universal design! It doesn't matter if you are young or old. You could be short or tall, healthy or ill. You might have a disability or you may be a star athlete. Because of universal design ideas, people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. And that home will be there for all its inhabitants even when their needs evolve. The need for Aging In Place home modifications or remodeling later can be lessened from the time of first moving into the home if living areas are planned using common sense and forethought.

     Universal Design does not strictly deal with accessibility 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. These adaptations have a broad market appeal to everyone for achieving ease of use, safety, and convenience accommodating a certain reality. That 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. A universal design is appealing to all users.

Accessible Homes Of Austin

     There are seven 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 equally useful to everyone, have flexibility in it's usefulness, be simple and intuitive, be perceived by everyone, have a tolerance for error, require little physical effort, and 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.

     Let's face it, an accessible home is needed by all of us at some time in our lives.  This is true whether it's for ourselves, a family member, or a guest.  The need is certainly not driven by age but is a result of life's experience.  Any family living with a disability among any of the generations within it's group can always benefit from additional accessibility.   This will in turn increase safety and independence for all involved as they go through life. 

Aging in place home modifications are available through T-Square Company in Austin. Each universal design/build situation will be customized to fit your personal needs. Call 512-444-0097 today to begin to prepare for the accessible second chapter of your life while remaining safe and secure in your existing home.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist

CAPS 1636580

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