You’re ready to remodel your space or build it from scratch. You’ve got your fabrics, finishes, fixtures and style picked out, but have you considered how you’ll move around in that space? Do you know if there is enough lighting to conduct certain tasks in that space? How will the finishes effect the way the space will be used.
One of the most important aspects of designing a space that most professional interior designers have to consider is designing in a way that pretty much anyone can use that space. The common term used to describe a space like this is called Universal Design. All of the planning for Universal Design has to be planned in advance to be sure all areas of compliance are covered.
Waaayyy back in the 80s, (BTW, the 80s are back, check out the current fashion trends), congress passed a set of guidelines to help ensure anyone with disabilities would have access in interior spaces. These guidelines were called by the name Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA.
According to ADA guidelines and The Fair Housing Act, there are seven basic requirements that must be met to comply with the access requirements of the Act. Those Requirements are:
Requirement 1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
Requirement 2. Accessible common and public use areas.
Requirement 3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
Requirement 4. Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
Requirement 5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
Requirement 6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars.
Requirement 7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms.
Uh oh! I know what you’re thinking. The first image that comes to mind is a space that might look like the photo to the left. No offense to this design, but spaces are able to be beautiful without looking clinic-y.
Seems like with these 7 easy steps, it would be a no-brainer for just about anyone to meet these requirements, but it’s just a bit more in-depth then you think.
Another requirement is for the spaces to be “usable”, so what might that mean in a space? Usable would mean, if a person is wheel-chair bound, are they able to use the sink in that space? Is there enough clearance for the foot/leg portion of the wheel chair to be able to comfortable reach the facet and handles to turn the water on and off to allow hand-washing? Is the faucet easy to manipulate for someone with hand dexterity issues? Is the plumbing under the sink shielded so as not to burn the occupant’s leg? WOW! Tons of items that need solutions and a designer knows how to find and incorporate those solutions.
There’s so much planning that has to be done in the preliminary stage of every interior design project. Leaving decision making for accessibility to a professional interior designer ensures your project will meet guidelines needed for a universally designed space. Programming and in-depth communication is vital to a successful, functional and beautiful interiors.
Interior Designers for both residential and commercial projects for clients interested in creating environments that can be accessed by everyone universally can be found at several websites.
About the author:
Christine Eustice, ASID RID, is a registered interior designer in the state of Texas under the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a degree in interior design. As of this publication she is serving as the past president of the Texas Chapter of ASID and has been a servant member for the Texas Chapter of ASID for 15+ years. Her passion is to create interiors for individuals that help increase their health, safety and welfare of those spaces while incorporating beauty and imagination while keeping function and efficiency.