Saluting Architect Michael Graves and Universal Design

Irwin Weiner ASID - If you're not inspired by architect and designer Michael Graves and his refusal to let a paralyzing disability crush his will to work, paint, and enjoy life with his co-workers and young son, then you're not quite right. Watch today's featured video (above) to see a truly inspiring portrait of a busy creative person. And that brings me to Universal Design. Mr. Graves knows the importance of UD, as should all interior designers. UD helps make public and private spaces functional and enjoyable for people of all ability levels. It's an issue that we face as we design for people with disabilities, and it's an issue of space planning as more people are "aging in place" - a rather odd term for the fact that many of us as we get older want to stay in our homes for as long as possible, versus moving into an institutional care setting. There are seven principles of Universal Design that we should all be aware of as we think about making our homes more enjoyable and accessible to all people.

Equitable Use. A design is useful and marketable to any group of users. (An easy-to-use door latch, for example, will be appreciated by everyone.)
Flexibility in Use. A design embraces a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. (Here's a simple, but widespread example in any home: door hinges with reduced tension allows for use by people of all ages and strength levels.)
Simple and Intuitive Use. A design is easy to understand. (For instance, there should be different colors and texture between porch and entryway flooring to help orient everyone as they move from indoors to outdoors, and vice versa.)
Perceptible Information. A design communicates necessary information. (Flashing lights, as one example, can be attached to telephones, doorbells, smoke alarms, and other devices to inform everyone, including the deaf.)
Tolerance for Error. A design minimizes the hazards and adverse consequences of accidental or unintentional actions. (Example: the threshold of a front door should be no more than one-half inch off the ground to make the entrance safe from trips and falls and wheelchair accessible.)
Low Physical Effort. A design can be used efficiently and comfortably. (For instance, a sink bowl placed near the front of a bathroom counter offers maximum accessibility to all.)
Size and Space for Approach and Use. There is appropriate size and space provided for a comfortable approach and use by everyone. (Example: Planning doorways and halls to be at least 36 inches wide will make it comfortable for wheelchairs to pass but also more convenient for everyone when it comes to moving furniture, piles of laundry, or other items around the house.)

Many manufacturers are gearing their designs to Universal Design principles, too. Click here to see the features of a GE Universal Design Kitchen, Delta Universal Design Bathroom Features, and Wellborn Cabinet's Active Living Collection.