From the entry doors and circulation spaces to the kitchens and bathrooms, the residential units have been designed to accommodate people of all abilities. The following seven Principles of Universal Design have been integrated in this project to ensure that these living units provide the same means of use for all users, including residents and visitors.
- Equitable Use
- Flexibility in Use
- Simple, Intuitive Use
- Perceptible Information
- Tolerance for Error
- Low Physical Effort
- Size and Space for Approach and Use
*Notations in parentheses throughout the narrative refer to specific applications of these seven Principles of Universal Design
Entry and accessibility to the living space is one of the most important universal design principles – the proposed residential units incorporate several features that make accessing and entering the living units easier for people of all ability levels. The path from the public way is graded to a maximum of 5% without steps (1,2,5,6,7). A covered 14’ x 5’ front porch provides for sheltered entry into the unit for residents and visitors. The porch includes a coach light on a motion sensor for clear visibility on the door lock after dark (3,4) and the doorbell is lighted and located for easy access to a person standing or seated (1,4,7). The entry door is a barrier-free insulated metal door that is 36” wide with a threshold less than ½” (1,2,5,6,7). And as typical throughout the unit, door hardware is a lever handle (3,6) and the clear space at the interior entry is finished with slip-resistant vinyl flooring (5) for ease of movement and protection from incoming moisture.
Interior circulation is facilitated by a ranch layout and an open plan for the main living spaces (1,2,6). The open floor plan provides circulation paths that are designed with a minimum width of 42” (1,2,7). The interior doors are 34” wide providing a clear opening greater than 32” and have flush thresholds at all doorways (1,2,7). Lever handles on all doors enable operation with minimal strength or twisting (3,6). In addition, the interior environment provides visual contrast with medium-dark wood trim against light painted walls and carpet which allows for greater recognition of the floor to wall juncture (3,4,). Slip resistant vinyl flooring and low-density carpet add to ease of movement throughout the living space (2,5,6).
The interior environment also incorporates universal design principles in the layout and location of electrical receptacles, switches, automation and safety controls. Receptacles, phone, cable and internet jacks are raised to a minimum of 18” above the finish floor (1,6,). Lighting control is provided by rocker switches installed a maximum of 42” above the finish floor, the same installation height of the thermostat (1,6,). Smoke detectors are hard-wired to accommodate future visual alarms (4). An emergency assistance call system in the master bedroom and both bathrooms is integrated with the unit’s security system and include both visual and audible alarms (1,5,6).
Bathrooms also present an important space in the living unit while featuring the principles of universal design. The master bathroom is designed to meet ADA, UFAS, Fair Housing Act and Universal Design standards in its layout, fixture selection and accessory locations. A 5’ turning radius is standard in the master bathroom, as is a 30” x 48” clear floor space at the wall-hung lavatory (1,7). The lavatory is installed to provide a minimum of 29” of clearance below for use to seated persons and includes protection for the piping below (1,2,5). The toilet is an ADA accessible height of 17”-19” and is located at 18” to the center off the sidewall (1,2,6). Blocking is integrated with the structural framing to allow for the installation of grab bars at the toilet and tub/shower (2). The ADA compliant tub/shower is designed with offset controls to facilitate access to all persons (1,2,6,7). A vanity light over the lavatory and an exhaust fan and light over the tub/shower provide plenty of lighting for greater visual contrast (1,4,5). A medicine cabinet with a mirrored door is provided and located to be useable for persons both seated and standing (1). Single lever handled faucets are provided at the lavatory (3,6), and a pressure-balanced anti-scald valve and a hand-held showerhead are included with the tub/shower unit (1,6).
The kitchen is also designed to accommodate persons of all abilities through the location of appliances, cabinets and workspaces. The kitchen includes clear floor space of 30” x 48” in front of all appliances and the sink as well as a 5’ turning radius for comfortable maneuverability (1,2,7). Also included with the sink are a pull out spray faucet and lever handled faucet (2,3,6). The range has front controls to eliminate the danger of reaching over the burners for seated and visually impaired persons (1,3,4,5,6). Kitchen base cabinets include rollout shelves while wall hung cabinets have adjustable shelves (2,6). Multiple rows of blocking integrated with the structural framing provide for future height adjustments of the cabinetry (2). Cabinetry in fully handicapped units are lowered to meet ADA guidelines and have taller toe spaces to accommodate persons in a wheelchair (1,5,7). The cabinet style integrates easily graspable finger pulls that require less strength to open (1,6). A lowered work counter with knee space provides for counters at multiple heights to accommodate workspace for persons of all sizes and abilities (1,2,7). General area lighting is combined with strategically located task lighting to properly illuminate work areas (4,5). And flooring is extended beneath all cabinets and appliances for future adaptability (2).
The design of the garages also incorporates some principles of universal design. They are designed as single car garages, but an increased width of 15’ provides extra space around the car for improved circulation from the garage into the unit (1,2,5,7). The garage floor is sloped 2” and includes a flat area in the rear of the garage to allow barrier free access into the unit (1,2,5,6,7). Power operated garage doors provide easy access and eliminate the need for lifting the overhead door (1,3,6). Handicap accessible units are designed with 8’ tall garage doors for taller vehicles (2). Alternate on-site parking spaces allow for additional parking for tall vehicles as well. Storage shelving in the rear of the garage is provided at multiple heights to be accessible to persons both standing and seated (1,2,7).
This attention to the principles of universal design allows for living units that are easily accessible and adaptable as residents’ abilities change and insures that these units remain viable living spaces for many years.
Understanding the importance of helping our residents to create a sense of community, we annually survey several hundred senior residents in our communities. The purpose of the survey is to ascertain the amenities and features that seniors felt were most important. As a result, we are incorporating extra square footage into the community space to allow various types of meetings, functions and activities. The building is designed with a large community space that will feature a main room to be utilized for multiple activities such as dancing, yoga, jazzercise, resident dinners, and other large gatherings. An exercise room with work-out equipment and a lending library will also be provided for residents to enjoy.
A shelter house will be located adjacent to the community building which can be utilized separately or in conjunction with the larger community space and will be equipped with picnic tables and a propane grill. Additionally, covered mailboxes will be conveniently located near the community building.
To encourage recreational activities and social interaction, a large flat screen digital television with DVD capabilities will be available for movie nights or sporting events. Another enhancement is the Wii gaming system, which has been shown to encourage physical activity and social interaction in senior group settings. Games such as bowling, virtual golf, tennis, and other interactive games will be available. The community building will feature a kitchenette with Energy Star rated dishwasher, refrigerator and microwave; and an exterior patio with seating area. The site will provide concrete sidewalks throughout and will offer accessible pathways wide enough to allow exercise and socializing.
The community will also provide approximately 5,000 sq. ft. of fenced open space as an exercise park for dogs. The park will include accessible pathways, frost-free hydrant for watering of animals, pet waste bag dispenser, park benches and shade trees. . An on-site community garden will also be included for residents to enjoy.