Since I became a mother, I have never been able to stand hearing my children cry. Something inside of me just would NOT allow my babies to cry for any length of time when they were small. So, as a solution, they went everywhere with me…to wash dishes…to cook dinner…to fold clothes…to take a bath. EVERYTHING! And… when they were really small I learned to do things with one hand because if they didn’t want to be put down… I wasn’t putting them down. Enter Karsten… (who cried for hours on end as a baby)… I don’t think I put him down for more than 10 minutes at a time for his first two years of life…….I know….my family gave me such a hard time about it! He even slept on my chest.
I didn’t particularly. really. even think anything about what I did…though, to some people I know it sounds crazy. It was just what I did. Like so many things we just do. I just did it. But then, and I know we all have one of these stories in our lives, someone came along (named Dr. Sears). Created a cool fancy name called Attachment Parenting. And SUDDENLY it’s cool and chic to do the thing that I was doing YEARS ago. Everybody thought I was crazy…but fast forward a few years and give it a fancy name and SUDDENLY it’s cool and a sign of how much you love your kids to hold them all of the time. “If I had a nickel”…
Anyway, this has something but nothing to do with what I REALLY want to talk about…Universal Design (there’s the fancy name). People with disabilities have been adapting homes and cars since the dawn of disabilities. We even rig things up out of necessity. I bet everyone that takes care of someone with a disability (including me)…even if they weren’t before (ME)…thinks of themselves as handy (ME). Necessity is truly the mother of invention. So, does someone have another nickel to give me… because everything that we’ve been doing for years in silence…is suddenly en vogue. But it’s so chic. and cool. and beautiful. that I’ve fallen in LOVE and am willing to overlook another stolen idea so that I can wholly partake in this amazing trend. SPECIAL NEEDS PARENTS OUR TIME HAS COME…SOMETHING INVOLVING WHAT WE DO IS ACTUALLY COOL! PARTAKE IN UNIVERSAL DESIGN WITH ME… FOR THIS DAY MAY NEVER COME AGAIN! (I TOTALLY felt like Braveheart mixed with King Theoden for a second)…anyway. OUR TIME HAS COME!
Universal design. Universal Design is the fusion of all of the generations of your life. It’s welcoming access for all who enter your home thought out and merged into one design. It’s also access for all at any stage in your life. When a friend in a wheelchair comes to visit, or someone needs to use crutches, as you age the ease of your gait declines, or someone in your home uses a wheelchair and assistive devices for their lifetime, Universal Design is in place to account for every situation accomodating each as you and your family change. Also known as aging in place, it accounts for aging before it comes allowing people to remain in their homes longer and with greater quality of life. And it’s SUPER chic and gorgeous.
Wheelchair accessible paths, lowered thresholds, widened doorways, larger bathrooms…the house is equipped for differently-abled visitors and its aging or differently-abled residents.
The Universally Designed exterior is adapted to make entry and exit from the home easy, safe, simple, and seamless.
Parking should be level and provide at least 13′ of clear space for maneuvering.
Wheelchair accessible routes of travel (at least 36″ walkways) can be provided from the driveway to the front door, from the front door to the sidewalk, and anywhere else that it’s desired on the property.
Wheelchair accessible (widened) paths can be poured to provide access to all parts of the yard: side yard, rear yard, and planters.
Access to the home should be free of steps. All thresholds in the home are lowered to provide no step entries for people with difficulty walking and a seamless passage for wheelchairs.
Entry doors can be widened to 36″ or more which provides at least 32″ of clearance for easy wheelchair access.
Some simple and practical and some amazing assistive devices can be added to make it easier for an elderly or handicapped person to access and to allow others access to their home.
Dual peepholes and sidelight windows let everyone in the home see “who’s at the door”.
Door locks can be controlled by remote or electric door strike which allows access to the home from any phone in the home.
General Interior Design:
36″ interior doors and doorways provide easy wheelchair access to all rooms.
Kickplates protect doors from shoes of people unable to use their hands.
Light switches should be placed 36″-40″ above the floor.
Illuminated switches glow at night for added visibility.
Laundry and Closet:
A front loading washer and dryer on pedestals with controls on the front of the machines provide the most universal access to laundry.
Pull down closet rods make the closet ENTIRELY accessible.
Other useful additions:
Open floor space to maneuver around the kitchen.
Open space under counter top appliances and sink for wheelchair knee space.
Touch activated faucets are not only very cool…they are so functional when you lack the dexterity to reach, pull, and lift a lever.
A raised platform under the dishwasher eliminates bending and kneeling.
Kitchen appliances can be relocated to unconventional places to provide complete access to modern conveniences to people of all abilities…and the end product looks chic, beautiful, and different.
The shower should be equipped with at least an adjustable hand held shower…
and the shower should be a minimum 36″ by 60″ to allow for adequate space for a person and possibly their caregiver.
Clearance under the bathroom sinks allows for that much needed knee space for a wheel chair to roll right under for dressing and hand washing…and the end product can be beautiful! It’s the perfect mix of edgy and glamorous.
The stairway lift has evolved! No longer does it carry just one person who must transfer from wheelchair to seat… NOW the stair lift carries you down wheelchair and all!
Many new home builders have heard the cries of the people and they are beginning to offer Universal Design modifications in addition to the standard new home upgrades. Adding Universal Design features this way is exponentially cheaper because it is being done during construction and many times they will do these types of upgrades for cost.
Universal design is current and futuristic. It is practical and chic. It uses the principle that has become so evidently necessary in the past few years, practicality and adds a level of security to the words “forever home”…it teaches us to think, plan for the future, and relish in the security of knowing that it is taken care of.