Accessible Design gets personal

When it comes to universal design, 2 clear yet seemingly opposite trends seem to be permeating the marketplace. The first is that universal design is becoming, well more universal. Once a specialty niche, this area is becoming increasingly main-stream, as aging baby boomers plan for the future, and manufacturers and designers respond by creating stylish products and designs that truly are " universal".

However, at the same time, universal design, once seen as a sort of "one-size-fits-all- who-don't-fit-the –standard –size". nice, is now becoming more personalized, with designs and products that offer more flexibility to fit the unique needs of each user. One example is how universal design is seen in relation to the aging process. We try to generalize what happens as we age, but that's not necessarily true. The idea we need more lighting as we age, well that's (often true), but not always. There are specific instances where (more light) might even be harmful".

The same is true of using borders to mark room entrances or countertop edges. While common knowledge suggests that this is helpful for people who are elderly and or who might be suffering from impaired vision-people who could benefit from having such a "visual clue" in some cases, these borders can have the opposite effect. For example same types of borders are often used for containing people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, And, sometimes the elderly find these borders disturbing, or may even be afraid of crossing them. For this reason "we have to get more specific, and get more adjustability when thinking about universal design. Of course personalization is not the only hot trend in universal design right now.

Attention to clearances and width of door ways is a trend I am seeing.

The multiple work stations for efficiency are also important and the seating workstation is a great for the elderly, the infirmed and those who tire easily and also for short people and children. Those areas, we take for granted with a different perspective. Work- centers-concentrated mini-spaces where you can do everything without moving- Now that is very universal design.

Technology as it is impacting the future of universal design . . . Example; you can have a screen in the kitchen so that when the phone rings, you can see if you want to answer it. You can see if someone's at the door, Turn the heat up or down and turn the lights and if there is someone at a window and which window like a burglar …this technology already exists. Many times it is not utilized because there's not enough demand. People don't know it exists so there is not need for a mauf. to put money into taking it to market. Planning ahead is also key issue in universal design, and one that is too often over looked and I encourage clients to consider wiring etc. to prepare just as they would for computers of the future. Not a whole lot of people think about it until something happens.

Aesthetics are another important consideration.
One concern is that (physically challenged) clients are fearful of making changes that will change the aesthetic of the home for future sale of the home.
The aesthetics of the products need to have as high an importance as the functioning. But even beyond resale value most clients are very independent people and do not want to be catered to when it comes to that of thing. They do not want a vary non-transitional looking space. There's no reason why the two can't be blended together.

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