July 19, 2008

Remodelling, Aging-in-Place, and Unversal Design

Chris Farrell of Business Week takes a look at the trend toward aging in place. Predictably the conversation turns to that contribution of the US Disability Rights Movement to global society: Universal Design:

Overall, remodeling activity is falling at an annual rate of 4.8% in 2008, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. But the fastest-growing segment of the remodeling industry is overhauling homes for the 50-plus crowd.

Making your home a place where you can grow old comfortably doesn't mean littering it with sterile-looking devices reminiscent of nursing homes. The trend is to "universal design," which calls for safe, easy-to-use appliances that blend in with their environment. Doorknobs are replaced with handles (easier to open), lights made brighter (for aging eyes), door frames widened (for wheelchair access), and grab bars installed in the shower. "It's no one thing," says George Cundy, architect with the firm Cundy, Santine & Associates in Shoreview, Minn. "It's a combination of things that makes the difference so you can stay there."


The article would have been stronger with an adequate definition of the concept:

Principles of Universal Design

1. Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.
2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
3. Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.
7. Size and Space for Approach & Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Compiled by advocates of Universal Design in 1997. Participants are listed in alphabetical order: Bettye Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story, Gregg Vanderheiden. The Principles are copyrighted to the Center for Universal Design, School of Design, State University of North Carolina at Raleigh [USA].

The Principles established a valuable language for explaining the characteristics of Universal Design. They are in common use around the world, sometimes with slight modifications, primarily one or two principles grouped together. It is expected that the principles will be reconsidered on the occasion of their tenth anniversary in 2007 and are likely to evolve in response to experience with implementation and in order to incorporate insights and perspectives from the engagement of more diverse cultures.


Posted by rollingrains at July 19, 2008 05:21 AM