KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Aging in Place

May 17 2018

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Inclusive Design


Last week I had the pleasure of attending an immersive education program at the Monogram Appliances Showroom, which is at the Design Center Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Part of our program addressed universal design, or as I now like to call it, “Inclusive Design.”

What Is Inclusive Design?
Every design decision has to the potential to include or exclude clients. Inclusive design emphasizes the contribution that understanding user diversity makes to informing these decisions and thus to including as many people as possible. User diversity covers variation in capabilities, needs and aspirations. I think of it as, “designing for everyone from the smallest to the tallest.” The beautiful thing about looking at the subject from this angle is that it doesn’t concentrate on aging or physical disabilities but on creating design that makes a space safe and accessible to those who might have those disabilities now or in the future.

Inclusive design does not suggest that it is always possible or appropriate to design one product to address the needs of the entire population. Instead, Inclusive design guides an appropriate response to diversity in the population through:

– Developing a family of products and derivatives to provide the best possible coverage of the population

– Ensuring that each individual product has clear and distinct target users

– Reducing the level of ability required to use each product to improve the user experience for a broad range of customers in a variety of situations

Why Is Understanding User Diversity Important?
In my training with the Living-In-Place Institute, we are taught to think of the lifespan of a home. And if that lifespan is a long and healthy one, more than 1,000 people will interact with that home over that span of time. Within that group will be a large range of capabilities. Why not think about designing for the long term?

Additionally, failure to correctly understand people can result in products, furniture and appliances that cause unnecessary frustration and exclusion. This reduces commercial success due to increased returns and need for customer support.

Applying Inclusive Design to Interior Design
Some of my favorite ways of applying inclusive design to the practice of interior design include:

– Installing levers instead of door knobs to make them easier to grip and use

– Selecting products while thinking about the contrast between counter-tops, cabinets and floors to allow for vision difficulties

– Installing lighting in kick-plate areas to light up floors and provide the perfect amount of night lighting; great in bathrooms, kitchens and on stairways

– Incorporating technology to allow for voice activation of appliances

– Lowering appliance installation to accommodate someone in a wheelchair and incorporating vertical patterned cabinetry to mask the height changes. This is also a great time to talk about French door ovens for those with limited accessibility.

 

Feb 01 2018

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A Heart for Universal Design

The concept for universal design started in the 1950s, when wounded veterans returning from World War II found their homes uncomfortable and unsafe to live in. This issue continues today, for both aging Vietnam veterans and soldiers returning from conflicts in the Middle East.

John Gallina and Dale Beatty know this problem first hand. After having served on the North Carolina National Guard, the two 25-year-olds went on to join the 1st Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. On Nov. 15, 2004, their unit was on a mission to provide security for an engineer unit that was sweeping for mines. Their vehicle struck two anti-tank mines, leaving Beatty a double amputee below the knees and Gallina with severe back injuries, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.


As both men reintegrated into their communities, they found that their own homes needed to change. Their communities came together to help provide for them and show their support. They decided to pay this kindness forward – recognizing that there are so many other veterans with the same needs they had – and together co-founded Purple Heart Homes.

This nonprofit seeks out veterans in desperate need of home solutions, which range in everything from installing a wheelchair ramp or an ADA-accessible bath to beautifying a kitchen. These projects use a combination of volunteer and paid designers, contractors and builders and take place in most states.

“We provide a bit of comfort and security in the home and a greater connectivity with those in the community,” said Gallina, who explained in an interview with KBB that many volunteers are neighbors or community members. “You feel different after being in a war zone. Having a suitable home makes these veterans feel more comfortable in their community and not so different.”

Beatty also explained that this is particularly impactful for Vietnam veterans, who at the time were often not honored for their service because of the controversial war.


“When we can go into a neighborhood and rally the community around a veteran who never had a parade coming home or got thanked for their services, that has an impact,” he said. “The healing and impact comes from our engagement with them and showing them that there are people that care and understand, and they are probably their neighbors.”

For more information about Purple Heart Homes and to hear more about how to volunteer or donate, visit http://purplehearthomesusa.org.

Oct 11 2017

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Design for Everyone

The National Kitchen & Bath Association recently hosted a webinar titled “Top Tips for Implementing Universal Design Strategies” with Dani Polidor, CKD, CBD, owner of Suite Artistry, in Rochester, N.Y. She is NCIDQ and CAPS certified and has been a Design for a Difference ambassador since 2014.

According to cohousing.org, universal design/build presents a shift in the approach to residential design and construction. Comfort and convenience, regardless of age, stature or ability, is the hallmark of inclusive design.

Why Was CAPS Created? 

  • – Americans prefer to remain in their homes as they age rather than to seek assisted living or other arrangements.
  • – Older consumers want a reliable means to identify the professionals they can trust to remodel their homes. Help facilitate the evolution of the home as needs arise.

Polidor identified the seven principles of universal design:

  • – Flexibility in Use
  • – Simple & Intuitive Use
  • – Equitable Use
  • – Tolerance for Error
  • – Perceptible Information
  • – Low Physical Effort
  • – Size and Space for Approach and Use

And she identified the different groups of people who could benefit from universal design:

  • – People with height restrictions
  • – Those who speak different languages
  • – The elderly
  • – Individuals who are disabled
  • – Even those without disabilities

She also shared real-life examples to identify solutions for designing for clients with various needs.

  • Hearing Impaired. Visual, motion and auditory assistive technology
  • Mobility & Accessibility Issues. Ramps, elevators, chair lifts; lever handles and electronic controls; occupancy sensors and rocker switches; drawers and open shelves; lowered cooking surfaces and drawer-style appliances; wall-mounted lavatories and comfort-height toilets; thermostatic or pressure-balanced shower controls; tubs that fir the size, shape and ability of the user; grab bars and benches in showers
  • Sight Impaired/Sensitive. Window films, remote-controlled shades; contrasting floor patterns and colors; large display screens

Jul 03 2017

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A Design for Everyone

Photo Courtesy of Bestbath

Trends often come and go, but one necessity in the design world is here to stay. Aging parents are moving back in with families with small children, veterans are returning from war, and the Baby Boomer population is growing older. To address this hot topic, KBB hosted the webinar “Making Bathroom Design Work for Multi-Generational Living,” sponsored by Bestbath.

The Q&A at the end of the discussion covered common questions designers have and ways they can encourage clients who would benefit from universal design elements to include them in their baths. These questions were addressed by Julie Schuster of New York City.-based Julie Schuster Design Studio and Barb Mueller, president of Designs Anew Houston LLC.


Is universal design a positive when it comes to resale value?
It is certainly a positive when it comes to multi-generational use. All of these things that you put into a bathroom don’t have to be obvious, but buyers can realize how comfortable, easy and safe elements like a comfort-height toilet and grab bars are without knowing they are universal design elements.

What height is considered to be a low-threshold shower height?
Three inches is the highest. If you can get away with it though, a completely cureless shower is the best.

How do you keep water from escaping a curbless shower?
Use something like the Schluter system, which actually brings the water-proofing membrane outside of the shower. It won’t affect the area outside of the shower. Plus, be sure to still use shower curtains and doors.

What should the minimum tub deck width be?
There isn’t a real standard, but we would say six to eight inches. The very thin decks that are sculpturally beautiful are not exactly feasible for a universally designed bath.

Should there be more contrasting colors in the bath so different areas are easier to see?
Yes, for example, there can be tile around the shower so the homeowner can tell where the shower starts. The client should be able to discern where one thing starts and another stops, like if the countertop is a different color than the cabinetry, someone with failing eyesight can more easily find drawers and sinks.

Is a universally designed bathroom more expensive?
If you’re gutting a bathroom, a universal bathroom is not dramatically more expensive at all. The cost of products like grab bars and different pulls make little small difference in the price.

Other takeaways include:

-A huge portion of the U.S. population is considered morbidly obese. When designing for a larger person, be sure to create more space and include thoughtful elements like a bench in the shower.

-There are several ways to warm up a bathroom for an elderly family member. Heated floors and towel warmers are some options.

-Have the bathroom door swing outward rather than in. That way, if someone inside falls, a family member is able to notice and reach them quickly. 

What are your thoughts on universal design? Let us know on our Facebook page and on Twitter @KBBconnect.