Designed for you | How Universal Design benefits all of us

Designed for you | How Universal Design benefits all of us

The right design can make a huge difference in a person's ability to function safely in their environment. Doorways, thresholds, door handles & counter heights seem like mundane choices but can actually be create significant challenges in some situations. That's where Universal Design comes in. It focuses on designing in a way that’s usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Let's dive into some ways universal design cana be applied.

Universal Design

The concept of universal design was created to help people of all abilities be able to use products without difficulty. Universal design takes into account different cognitive levels, mobility, and functional challenges and then designs a space that works for that ability level.

Making items such as doorways, light switches, and sinks easily accessible to all people without having to be singled out. Universal design can be seen in everyday items like a digital thermometer that is flat instead of round to stay put under the armpits of children or the raised bump on the number 5 on a landline phone or remote control so it can be located by touch which helps people with vision loss and also anyone who might not want to look down.

Simple Changes

Unfortunately the number of homes that were built or remodeled with universal design concepts in mind is slim. But simple home modifications can make a significant difference in maximizing independence and ensuring safety for any. These changes might include:
  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms and along stairways, which provide crucial support for balance and stability. Lever-style door handles can replace traditional doorknobs, making it easier for anyone to open doors. Whether that's a mom carrying a baby or a grandma with arthritis.
  • Removing tripping hazards like loose rugs and clutter can create a safer environment for someone walking with a walker or a toddler learning to walk.
  • Adding non-slip flooring in bathrooms and kitchens makes it safer for someone with neuropathy and for anyone walking.
  • Maximizing doorway width with offset hinges can enhance wheelchair accessibility but also make it easier to move in large furniture.
These straightforward modifications can greatly improve the quality of life for not only individuals with diverse ability levels but also for anyone! 

Designing for the Biggest Challenge

Designing for the highest level of challenge, as seen with innovations like No Limbit wheelchair pants, is a brilliant approach that benefits everyone, not just the intended users. When designers consider extreme scenarios and tailor their creations to meet those needs, they actually make their products more versatile and user-friendly for a broader audience!

For instance, No Limbit wheelchair pants were originally designed to cater to the specific requirements of wheelchair users, providing comfort, functionality, and ease of dressing and use through the day. However, these thoughtful design elements, such as adaptive closures and well placed pockets, have proven to be incredibly convenient for a wide range of people, including those with temporary injuries, older adults, or individuals with dexterity limitations. By addressing the highest level of challenge, they've created products that enhance accessibility and usability for everyone, embodying the principle of universal design and ensuring inclusivity at its core. 


Technology to Improve Safety

Innovative technology is rapidly reshaping the landscape of home safety, addressing some of the most pressing concerns and, in the process, benefiting a surprisingly diverse array of individuals. Beyond the initial goal of creating solutions for specific safety challenges, these technological advancements have shown remarkable versatility, extending their advantages to a broad spectrum of users. From smart home devices that enhance security to assistive technologies that foster independence, this convergence of safety and technology is proving to be a game-changer in improving the quality of life for countless people, irrespective of their unique needs or circumstances. In this era of innovation, the boundaries of home safety are expanding, and the benefits are reaching far beyond the initially intended audiences.
Consider wanting a loved one to continue cooking but being worried about the risk of a fire because they keep leaving the stove on. Technology like the Automatic Stove Turn Off Device for Stoves and Ovens automatically shuts off the appliance after a predetermined time of no motion noticed by the stove.
Think also of smart home monitoring systems. Originally designed to provide homeowners with real-time security updates and remote control over their home environment, these systems have become indispensable for families caring for aging loved ones. By incorporating features such as motion sensors, doorbell cameras, and fall detection devices, they offer peace of mind for caregivers while allowing older adults to age in place safely. This seamless blend of safety and technology not only prevents emergencies but also fosters independence, making it an ideal solution for seniors and their families. Moreover, it extends its benefits to a broader range of users, including individuals with disabilities or medical conditions that require continuous monitoring, further highlighting the universal appeal of technology-driven safety solutions.
There are lots of ways to reconsider how to make life easier using universal ydesign concepts. For help with planning it out, schedule a virtual visit with one of our occupational therapists to get the answers you need!
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Brandy Archie, OTD, OTR/L, CLIPP

Dr. Archie received her doctorate in occupational therapy from Creighton University. She is a certified Living in Place Professional with past certifications in low vision therapy, brain injury and driving rehabilitation.  Dr. Archie has over 15 years of experience in home health and elder focused practice settings which led her to start AskSAMIE, a curated marketplace to make aging in place possible for anyone, anywhere! Answer some questions about the problems the person is having and then a personalized cart of adaptive equipment and resources is provided.

She's a wife, mother of 3 and a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan! Connect with her on Linked In or by email anytime.

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