With our population living longer, our society is experiencing an age related housing problem. Aging in place issues have become the norm given our aging baby boomer population. Aging in place specialists holding a CAPS certificate, their services, and aging in place design is taking over the remodeling industry day by day. A revolution in building design standards is long overdue. Our current building design standards do not address the needs of more than one third of our existing population. Many more people can greatly benefit from accessible design versus conventional design. Our rapidly aging population is experiencing the limitations of our personal living environments. Any evolution in building practically always begins in the common areas of the commercial building sector. The American Disabilities Act of 1990 increased the attention needed for those people having the right to equally access their work place and any recreational or leisure facilities. These rules at least offer minimal solutions for those needing the most help with any building access. In Austin, we now must provide access to one bathroom on the first floor in new homes as deemed by our newly adopted building regulations. This basic right to an accessible bathroom is finally being enforced by the city's building officials. What a tremendous needed and basic design improvement!
This adequately sized universal design shower in this bathroom transformation above has wood blocking in the walls for a future folding seat and grab bars to be installed at the appropriate time. The low threshold shower entrance accommodates all users. The shower controls are within a 48 inch height off the finished floors and graspable by all. The dual shower heads are definitely user specific. The shower entrance door has a 32 inch clearance when fully open. There is adequate spacial lighting for showering. The floors both in the shower and connecting bath floor have an adequate nonskid surface rating.
The Universal Design (UD) concept is also age driven like the aging in place issue but addresses the design of all homes both new and existing. Universal design/build addresses not only the problems all of today's homeowners face but the professional skills involved in design, building, remodeling, and all social and health services. This new evolving concept in 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. The multi-generational appeal of UD is appealing to any homeowner, their children, or their parents. 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. These new advances in accessible home remodeling in Austin not only keep the living environments safer but will not compromise the home's aesthetics.
UD 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.
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.
Universal Design does not equate to aging in place and 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.
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.