Universal Design in New Zealand Homes

BRANZ is an independent research, testing, consulting and information company that provides resources and advice for the building industry.

"Human behaviour isn't the only factor behind injuries in the home - structural aspects can play their part, which is why ACC is supporting BRANZ's new resource on universal design," says ACC Programme Manager Megan Nagel.

"Universal design describes buildings that are safe, aesthetic, and accessible to all people. Examples of universal design features include level access ways, non-slip surfaces, and wider doorways and passageways.

Ms Nagel says that approximately 40% of the roughly 1.7 million claims Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) receives each year are for injuries that happen in or around the home.

"It makes sense to incorporate universal design ideas when planning your home. They will make your house safer by reducing the risks of trips and slips, while also ensuring it can accommodate your physical needs as they change over time, for example because of age or injury.

"It costs very little to incorporate universal design features at the blueprint stage, especially compared with the cost of modifying an existing home. It is also a smart investment for the future. As New Zealand's population ages, there will be a growing demand for safer homes with better access," says Ms Nagel.

To see the universal design resource, visit: www.branz.co.nz/universal_design

Simple tips to help prevent injuries at home include:

- Clean up spills in 'wet' areas (i.e., kitchen, bathroom and laundry)

- Run appliance cords along the wall rather than across the floor

- Replace blown bulbs to keep walkways well lit at night

- Fasten mats and rugs to the floor

- Clean up toys and clutter, especially in areas with high foot traffic

- Install outdoor lighting to make it safer coming and going in the dark

- Remove moss from paths, especially during winter.

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