Focus On The Future With Universal Design

  • Tuesday, August 23, 2016
  • Chris Mabee, President of Home Builders Association Of Greater Chattanooga

All across the Chattanooga region, many families are making adjustments to their homes in order to stay with their families as they age. As part of this “aging in place” movement, universal design allows people with different abilities, shapes and sizes to all enjoy the same house, even as some family members’ needs change over time.

Universal design refers to the way home products and environments can be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) can help remodel your home using these universal design concepts. Keep in mind, while most CAPS professionals are re-modelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants.

Here are some of the more common universal design features that are also incorporated into aging-in-place remodels:

No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home's main rooms.

One-story living. Eating, sleeping, and bathroom areas are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.

Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.

Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.

Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.

Some universal design features just make good sense. Once you bring them into your home, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them. For example:

Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They're not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.

Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway. They also keep others from tripping.

Good lighting helps people with poor vision, but everyone would benefit from this amenity.

Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength and for anyone with an armful of groceries and packages. 

To find a qualified CAPS re-modeler in the tri-state area, contact the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga at 423-624-9992 or visit

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