Recent Articles on Universal Design


Pat Ferrier, writing in the Coloradan, tells an interesting story - with a bit of edge - on the impact of visitability while making appropriate distinctions between disability, handicap, universal design, and accessible design. (But note Visitability founder Eleanor Smith's notes below.*) Read Homes for All Abilities. The piece is reminiscent of the warning issued post-Katrina -- "Will We Learn From Our Mistakes?"

Here is another good piece. This one is by Maureen St.Hilaire and published in the Arlington Advocate. And one by Kimberly Seldon of Design for Living.

As Universal Design continues into the mainstream publications like MSN (first article) make mistakes like confusing it with accessible design.

The Hottest Remodeling Trends for 2011

Universal Design Makes Homes Useful for Every Stage of Life

Latest New American Home Has a Lot of `Wow'

But then, they are not alone:

Universal Design, Other Features, Appeal to Boomers
by Jonathon Scott, The Business Journal

Scott also makes the error of linking New Urbanism with meeting the needs of those with mobility impairments if a subscetion entitled "Walkable Communities." "Walkable", perhaps, if your stamina exceeds that which generally accompanies aging.

On balance, the practice of Universal Design is suffusing the home industry even if it is poorly understood. Poisitive signs include these reports from the Miami Herald:

Stephen Bennett doesn't need a wheelchair-accessible bathroom. But the president and chief executive of United Cerebral Palsy has lots of friends and professional acquaintances who do and says ``when I have friends over, I want them to be able to go to the bathroom in my house...'

It's a problem that many Americans may find familiar.

As baby boomers hit their 60s, many are learning that even something as simple as getting into their own bathrooms becomes quite difficult if they suddenly need a wheelchair to get around.'


See also Jo Werne's "Prepare Your Home Now for Aging in Place."

* Notes on the Coloradan article by Eleanor Smith:

Many new articles in the mainstream press, these days, reference
Visitabity and/or Universal Design. Below is a good example, from
the March 20 Fort Collins, CO, daily newspaper.

There are a couple of inaccuracies. For instance, it says that universal design was
introduced in Atlanta. In fact, UD was introduced in Raleigh NC,
and Visitability in Atlanta, at about the same time and without
either group knowing of the other
for a couple of years.

Nor is EVERY house required to have access in the cities listed, which the
article claims.

I also question the cost figures stated by some
builders in the article, since they are too high unless some factors
are involved the article is not mentioning. For instance, saying
basic access costs "2 or 3 %" of the cost of the home does not
compute, since incorporating the same features is not going to cost
$2,000 for a 100K home and $8,000 for a 600K home--even if certain
features in the high-end home such as the entryway are made with
higher cost materials like flagstone instead of concrete.

The most serious error is to let stand the statement that keeping water
from running into the home is highly complex. When folks assert
that to me, I usually counter with "Does water run in the new bank?
The new Burger King?" And one can also reference Bolingbrook IL,
with its snowy winters, where water has not been a problem in the
thosands of homes built. (A few have received exemptions based on
terrain, but that constitutes less than 3%.) As to cost,
Bolingbrook city officials are stating a cost of about $300 for all
the features--and the homes are built over basements.

With all the above caveats, I still think the article moves the
concept forward well.

Eleanor S.

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