Most of us have tripped on paving stones, stumbled on unnoticed steps, or dropped packages while trying to find the correct key at a poorly lit door! Employing Universal Design, which is the process used to design homes that work for people of all abilities, will help to solve this issue.
Other hazards include landscaping that obscures vision or encroaches on pathways, narrow walkways that are difficult to negotiate, especially for those who use assistive devices. Universal design is for efficiency, and this is the key to building a home that operates simply and smoothly.
For example, for a client in a wheelchair, a walkway might be built all the way around the home for complete access. A maximum slope of 1 inch rise per 20 inches in length is a very gentle slope that makes it easy for users of all abilities negotiate the pathway without the need to rely on railing.
Other tips for helping to navigate from the curbside to the home through Universal Design are:
• Make walkways very wide, such as 48 inches, which makes it possible for someone in a wheelchair and a companion to walk side by side.
• Use smooth, not slick, surfaces to reduce tripping hazards instead of using a paver.
• Color concrete surfaces to reduce glare.
• Install motion activated lights for security, and light pathways well. Simple solar lights are rarely enough to do the job. Use low-voltage pathway lighting instead.
• Hook a small light up to the motion sensor to illuminate the door handle to do away with fumbling with keys in the dark.
• A covered entryway is always needed to protect one from the elements; eight feet should be the minimum.
• Add a small shelf to the side of the doorway or a bench for packages or for seating.
• The entryway should have at least a three-foot opening, which will help toward future needs.
• Install easy-to-use door handles, such as levers or handles that operate without twisting, or keyless lock systems.
Summarized From Builder Special Report, November 2014, by Kate Tyndall