A large ledge around the tub facilities transferring in and out

Universal design in the home

No two people are the same and no two people have exactly the same ability.  For this reason a universal design approach to the way we design our products, services and environments is essential.  Universal Design creates inclusive design solutions and promotes accessibility and usability, allowing people with all levels of ability to live independently.

As we spend much of our time within our homes, it make sense to have our homes designed in a way that meets the needs of all those that will live in it.  People are diverse, some are left-handed and some right-handed and vary in their age, size and functional abilities.

The Universal Design Living Laboratory is a really interesting home or project located in a suburb of Ohio, USA.   It is the home of Rosemarie Rossetti and her husband Mark who decided to create a custom home to suit their needs and serve as both a showcase of Universal Design products and a real-life laboratory to test out how Universal Design features work in a home over time.  The motivation for the home came about after Rosemarie’s needs change after an accident.  Rosemarie uses a wheelchair and Mark stands over 6ft tall.

Follow Mark, as he describes some of the universal design features that are incorporated into his home (Universal Design Living Laboratory).

Rosemarie shares some universal design storage tips.


In summary, some of the main universal design features are as follows;
Within the kitchen there are multiple height counters and plenty of manoeuvring space.
kitchen with multiple height counters

Pull-out storage makes reaching items easier.

Pull-out storage

The oven and microwave are mounted in the lower cabinets and have side-hinged doors that make reaching the food easier.

oven and microwave are mounted in the lower cabinets

A raised dishwasher provides wheelchair accessibility and eliminates the need for standing users to stoop.

Disk washer at raised height

A pot-filler faucet is located near the cooktop and in-counter steamer, eliminating the need to carry heavy water-filled pots to the stove.A pot-filler faucet is located near the cooktop and in-counter steamer

A Side-by-side style refrigerator/freezer lets seated users access both areas easily.

A Side-by-side style refrigerator and freezer

A pull-out cart provides flexibility between under counter storage and knee clearance.

A pull-out cart between under counter storage

Within the shower a Roll-in shower area includes trench drains, seats, and hand-held sprayers.Roll in shower

A large ledge around the bath facilities transferring in and out.  Glass block mosaic brings in light while maintaining privacy.A large ledge around the tub facilities transferring in and out

Sinks at different heights helps to accommodate different users

sinks at different height

Wheelchair accessible pathways are installed in the garden, which includes raised plant beds.Wheelchair accessible pathways installed a garden which includes raised plant beds

Other universal design features include

  • Step-free entrance
  • All doors without thresholds that are wide enough for a wheelchair or walker (36”)
  • Wider hallways (46 “)
  • Lever handles on doors and faucets
  • Full extension drawers and shelves in kitchen base cabinets
  • Cooktop set into a counter with open knee space
  • Casement windows
  • Lower rocker style light switches (36” above the floor)
  • Higher electrical outlets (25” above the floor)
  • Large bathroom with decorative grab bars
  • Wood, non-slip tile and a dense weave, low pile (< ½”) carpet floors
  • Large bathtubs with plenty of grab bars
  • Curbless roll in showers with plenty of grab bars
  • Slide bar for shower head
  • Hand-held, flexible shower fixture
  • 17-19” high toilet seats
  • Adjustable hanging closet rods and shelves
  • Front loading washer and dryer
  • Open knee space under all sinks

For further reading on Universal Design you might be interested in:
The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design
The Center for Universal Design (CUD)

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