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President Todd Hawkins preaches building science and Universal Design (UD) to teach the benefits of an efficient, convenient, comfortable and flexible Lifetime Home. Also follow him on Twitter @BuilderFish for short tips about how kid-friendly UD makes home life easier and more secure for any person of any age or ability.

Sleep easier in your master bedroom

Where would you sleep if you couldn't access or get around your current master bedroom? How then should you prepare your bedroom (or another "flex room") so that it's truly "livable for a lifetime" and you've got a place to rest your head?

Maybe you've noticed reading this tutorial series that I've focused on convenience and ease by describing universally designed home features from a perspective of ANY-ability and not inability or disability. I've harped that UD = EZ to the greatest extent for ALL people, not just the frail or incapacitated.

Now however, I'll actually be emphasizing disability, namely preparing for the potential of limited mobility or the need for a caregiver in the master bedroom during some point in the resident's life. In other words, how to maintain sleeping in your own bed no matter what.

Now don't go away, keep reading! Some of you are about to leave because you think this doesn't apply to you but I urge you to consider carefully what I'm about to write.
 
What if you were injured in a car accident or suffered a sports injury? Those could happen at any time. Where would you sleep if you couldn't access or get around your current bedroom? I have personal experience and trust me, you don't want to add the stress of reconfiguring your house (or being forced from it altogether!) atop the physical and emotional strain of recuperation. Unfortunately, most wait until fit hits the shan and the family is in crisis; but, that won't be you, right?

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How to plan a hassle-free utility, laundry and/or mudroom

Notice the raised appliances, rolling cart and knee space under the sink, everything relatively at point of use.

If you've been reading this series from the start, you recognize a common theme within a universally designed home that everything should be within easy reach, both standing and seated. Stated another way, you'll realize maximum convenience and efficiency if you don't have to go out of your way for a thing, neither stretching, stooping nor straining.

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Spray Any Way in this Shower

Make your shower safe and easy with this versatile shower fixture comprised of three key components, the sprayer wand, with six foot hose and adjustable track bar. Many wands also come with water adjustment controls. Make one of these your pick if you splurge on only one thing.

Maintain control and boost safety in the shower area, by including, not only seating (preferably built-in), but also point-of-use and multi-functional fixtures and safety bars. Avoid reaching, stooping or any strained movement which could cause loss of balance.

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Slip-sliding, No Way!


Invisia Collection by HealthCraft Inc

Look at the picture. Any guesses? What if I told you it supports 250 pounds? Give up? That soap dish a "grab bar". Would you have known if I hadn't told you?

That's the essence of Universal Design, done well it's unnoticed. One of the main objections about installing grab bars, "It'll make my bathroom look like a hospital or nursing home" is simply misperception based on where most people first saw grab bars (i.e. hospitals and nursing homes!).

But let's forget about seniority and simply think about convenience, if you're a runner and want to stretch, wouldn't it be handy to have this kind of support? Ladies, ordinarily what do you hold onto when you shave your legs? If you're going to have bathroom fixtures, why not have them support your full weight if you must reach out and grab something? 

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What is a curb-less shower?

Ditch the curb, you don't need it, and roll into the wettest area of your home. And another misconception, drains don't have to be in the middle of the floor. Whether custom tile, insert or tub-to-shower conversion, you can have a shower with flush entrance. Water will not get everywhere and can be directed as desired by gravity or even sucked down the drain.

Bottom line, curbed showers are dinosaurs, and only present an accessibility challenge if you ever lose mobility for any reason (e.g. pregnancy) or tripping threat if you're not paying attention (e.g. children).

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Shower Thoughts

Do you start or end your day with a relaxing shower? What if you couldn't? What if your shower became an obstacle in your daily routine? I accomplish some of my best thinking in the shower. It's my island of solitude within a family circus. I shudder at the thought of one day losing or having diminished one iota my ability to shower BY MY SELF.

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Lifetime Vanity

 What's the big deal about a vanity? This is another area of the home often overlooked as insignificant, but you rely upon it everyday to complete dressing and personal grooming. Therefore, assure comfortable use both standing and seated when planning the space and function of the vanity area. 

Aside from washing your hands, imagine your daily routine and position outlets, towel hooks/bars, medicine cabinet, etc. within easy reach, and don't forget about bathroom clean-up and plumbing maintenance. You should also be able to accomplish those tasks from a seated position in order to avoid stooping or getting on hands and knees to shut off the water for example.

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Comfortable Throne

Kohler Comfort Height

 

The lowly toilet gets scant attention when remodeling or building a new bathroom yet you certainly don't want any hassle using. People splurge on other things but the toilet is the most important fixture in the most private of rooms.

As I've assisted my young children "go potty" the past few years, I've often thought, "I sure hope they never have to return the favor." You understand if you've been injured or cared for someone with a mobility challenge.

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Smart Bathroom Planning

There's a lot going on in bathrooms, in the room, behind the walls and under the flooring. The smallest room requires the most thought because of the importance of maintaining privacy (throughout your decades) while enabling the space and fixtures to accomplish why you're in there in the first place.

(This post describes a master bathroom but most of the considerations also apply to half-baths and powder rooms.)

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Make your bathroom the safest room

 



Scrub-a-dub-dub, just not in a tub. Why aren't bathtubs universally friendly? (We've uncovered ONE possible exception at the end of this post.) Tubs in general aren't safe because you must lift your legs and lower yourself in, which means there's a period of being off balance or a threat of falling. Walk-in tubs aren't much of a solution because you must sit there, often times chilled, while the water pours and empties, and the units traditionally leak. We recommend against other than the exception alluded to above.

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Hassle-Free Kitchen

OK, I suppose until a kitchen that cleans itself is invented none will be truly hassle free but what I'm about to describe is close. If life revolves around the kitchen, why not make it easy as pie?

Last time I described ideal space and height allowances and this post concerns function, the primary features to look for in major appliances and fixtures.

This is Delta's touch faucet but every manufacturer now makes both touch and motion activated, many offer both in the same fixture, and at a variety of prices.



Every appliance or fixture you put into your kitchen should cater to effortlessness. Each should promote user efficiency and ease. We want to minimize lifting in favor of sliding, avoid reaching, stooping or any potential off balance movement preferring instead everything close at hand or easily accessible.

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How efficient is your kitchen?

I'm referring more to work space efficiency, not so much your appliances, although those matter too. Make the room where everyone gravitates and congregates the most user friendly. Daily living revolves around the kitchen so concentrate your budget dollars there if you can only improve one area of your home. Why? Because easy use and convenience ensure safety and control, therefore protection from cuts, burns, slips, falls and drops.

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Is your home Visitable or Livable?

What is it and why does it matter? Each has a technical definition related to property accessibility and each is important for personal well being. We are social creates who benefit from human interaction, your mental and emotional health (your sanity) depends on being around others, which you cannot if you or they cannot get around easily.

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How to make your home more convenient

You can significantly improve convenience and user efficiency by making inexpensive changes throughout your house, and I'm not referring to automation of the whole house, even though you could take a baby step developing a "smart home" simply by spending a little more for motion-activated switches or automated deadbolts and thermostats. All of what I'm describing can be purchased on-line or at the home improvement retailers.

But even if you don't want to go high-tech, boost the convenience of your home simply by swapping out round door knobs and traditional light switches. Every area in the house should have these universally designed basics promoting convenience . Each is simple and intuitive to use by the most people, whether standing or seated, with low probability for error and includes multiple ways of accomplishing the same goal.

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The Family Launching Pad

In most houses, a family foyer (or mudroom off garage) serves as a primary staging area for coming and going. This post applies to both spaces although I'll reference only a foyer inside a front entrance. I don't have a good picture of an entire family foyer so I'm showing built-in lockers as part of an ideal transition area from inside to outside.

Custom Built-in Lockers

The foyer is your daily launching and landing pad, not to mention your home's first impression to most visitors. Does it resemble the dump? Here's a cure.

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How to plan and create a flush threshold entry

The mat is the problem in this shot, otherwise there is no rise in threshold. A zero clearance entryway is so basic that it's somewhat difficult to explain. Your main consideration is the thickness of your floor covering and whether that will require compensation, a lowering of the sub-flooring, which might take some engineering and planning, otherwise no big deal. But let's consider hardwood flooring for instance, that won't cause a massive design headache, really thick ceramic or stone tile might be another matter but that's more complicated regardless.

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NO step aerobics

Imagine no steps to climb to the door. Here's how that can look.

You won't get winded getting to your door if you've got ZERO steps to climb. Here are some options if you're attempting to achieve at least one step-free accessible route to either the front, side or rear entry. Access via a garage is another alternative not covered here.

Notice too that gentle sloping and use of retaining walls is aesthetically appealing, you can incorporate landscaping of all types, even raised flower or vegetable gardens and be universally designed in two regards, inclusive access plus easy gardening (e.g. tend your raised garden while seated).

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How to build a zero step entry

Dirt is your friend. Move Mother Earth, move the house up or down, or a combination to engineer a zero step entrance, the TO part of getting THROUGH the doorway.

Don't throw away useful dirt or rocks! Managing soil on a job site costs money so put every ounce to use. Think of those machines, like dozers and dump trucks, as taxi cabs with a meter. Whether digging, pushing or hauling, a running engine is operator time and ringing cash register. Dirt gets wasted on many projects, particularly when excavating basements, either spread around the lot or carted away. Think of that dirt (and rocks!) as your no-step ramp!

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2 Steps for ZERO Steps

I get ticked when I see new houses with lots of steps being built on relatively flat lots. That's simply design-build laziness, and ominous when you consider 18,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 DAILY!

So if you're planning construction or home improvement, here's how to make your home life easier with ZERO steps getting into the house.

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How can I improve home accessibility?

This picture is an accessibility nightmare, a hill with lots of steps. Might as well be Mount Everest for anyone who isn't upright and able to climb.

Accessibility into your home starts at the street, regardless of how well designed your space is on the inside. You must first get TO the door before you can enter THROUGH the door, an important consideration for a home's livability as well as visitability by others. Common sense, right? 

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