As we approach the holidays, I can’t help but think about the beautiful family gatherings about to take place across this country and around the world.  I am hopeful that joyful memories will be made with loved ones & friends this year. 

I encourage you to be thoughtful in your preparation for visitors who may have physical or mental impairments, and I encourage you to follow universal design principles when you build or remodel spaces in the future. 

Visitability is the act of making a home barrier free so that every visitor and resident can feel safe, secure, and function independently within the space.  A person’s ability to function independently has a significant impact on self-esteem, self-confidence, and a feeling of autonomy. 


Universal Design Principles

  1. Equitable use: Provide equivalent means of use for all users to avoid segregating or stigmatizing users of the space.  Provisions for privacy, security, & safety should be equally available to all users.  An example of this would be creation of a safe approach to your home with a zero-step entry & weather protection at the door.  Choosing hard slip resistant surfaces (wood, tile, vinyl) or low pile carpeting would be another example in design.
  2. Flexibility in use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. There is adaptability to the user’s pace, accuracy, and precision.  Use of lever door handles and touchless faucets would be good options.
  3. Simple and Intuitive: Use of the design is easy to understand regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or concentration level.  Unnecessary complexity is eliminated with items like low effort rocker light switches placed 42-48” above the finished floor (a comfortable reach for seated or standing users).    
  4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user regardless of the user’s sensory abilities or ambient conditions.  Here is where you would increase task lighting, increase font size on digital items, and use high contrast colors near transitions between rooms or between surfaces for those with visual deficits.
  5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards from unintended actions or accidents. Here is where you would minimize threshold transitions between rooms and reduce clutter in a room to minimize tripping hazards.
  6. Low Physical Effort:  The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.  When designing a kitchen plan for multi-level work surfaces for others to be able to participate in meal prep or socialize while conserving energy.  Use cabinets with roll out shelves and place small appliances where they are convenient & easy to use. 
  7. Size & Space for approach and use:  Appropriate space is available for approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.  Plan for wide doorways at a minimum of 36” wide and hallways at 42” wide.  If your home will have stairs, install wider and deeper treads to accommodate assistive devices.

The next time you are considering a home remodel, make sure to consult with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) during the planning stages.   The owner of Mindful Living Spaces is CAPS certified and is a former physical therapist.  We can meet the needs of all users and make the design visually appealing to all users. 

Glamorous Bathroom

If you are going to do the remodel … you might as well make mindful choices to create a home that is inviting and safe for all those who enter it and live in it!