Universal Design is becoming a buzz words amongst aging boomers and those working in the senior housing development arena. Some proponents say that it goes beyond ADA and accessibility standards. But Universal Design isn't about just accommodating the disabled homebuyer or satisfying accessibility codes. Its really about good design - design that allows people of all ages and abilities to experience a space or room in a similar fashion.
This means that a senior with arthritis, or a teen in a wheelchair, or a young mother with a stroller, or a middle aged man on crutches, or a child can all equally control lighting levels in a room, access appliances and plumbing fixtures, enter a home, or open an interior door. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) was instrumental in mandating that provisions be made for those with physical disabilities in public places. However, the ADA is a code minimum. There are many wheelchair users that will attest to the inadequacy of those code minimums in terms of daily usability.
AARP recently published an article about Universal Design in their recent Bulletin. AARP article. The article featured a Seattle-area contractor, interior designer and architect (Schemata Workshop).
Many friends, family, and collaborators called to say that they had seen the article. What I hope is that others who saw the article will also become acquainted with the term Universal Design and grow to expect that designers, architects, and contractors as well as the housing developers who hire them will provide the features that will create homes (and commercial spaces) that are well-designed for everybody to enjoy.