Universal Design offers a wide range of benefits to people of all ages and abilities by creating an environment where people can feel more comfortable at home.
It is a practical and modern approach to home design, construction, and renovation, bringing together the best of everything we know about building homes where a person’s needs are at the heart of the end product.
Universal Design is a sensible design which is useful and appealing to people of all abilities. A universally designed home allows occupants to easily adapt and convert their home to meet their changing needs over time.
On the outside, a universally designed home should look the same as traditional housing. On the inside, many of its features are barely noticeable. It is the creation of a home for a lifetime which aims to meet everyone’s needs and avoids building barriers that discriminate against any of the people living in or visiting the home.
Universal housing is not a particular house type. It is an approach to building homes using a range of attitudinal, design and construction refinements to create a home that:
- meets the needs of people across a range of abilities and ages;
- is adaptable for the changing needs of people over time;
- ensures that design works for person, rather than the person working to fit with design;
- is not stigmatizing and is well integrated into the community; and
- can be economically adapted in the future if necessary.
Designing Homes with the Future in Mind
The proportion of Australia’s population who are ageing or have a disability is expected to increase. This will result in an increased need for modifications and changes to the layout or physical features of many homes, along with mechanical and other equipment.
In its 1998 survey, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 19.9% of the Queensland population (686,700 people) had a disability. The most frequently reported area of disability was mobility, with 145,600 people with a disability in Queensland requiring assistance. The ABS projects that the population aged 65 or more will reach 1.5 million persons, or 24% of the total population, by 2051. This represents a 278% increase from 399,400 persons in 1999.
Since the 1950’s, Australian homes were built mainly for two-parent families with two or more children. Kitchens and bathrooms are usually small with narrow doorways, making access difficult for anyone with reduced mobility. Consequently, dwellings may be difficult and expensive to adapt. People are often forced to relocate to meet their changing needs.
A universally designed home’s interior design and features can be changed as required, allowing people to stay within the familiarity and comfort of their home and surrounding area.
Our Changing House Needs
An increasing number of people now work from home. As a result, housing could ideally provide space and utilities for offices.
Adult children come and go – often residing longer with their families and studying for many years.
Moreover, ageing parents may come and stay for extended periods when needing assistance or company.
The ageing population and the changing structure of the Australian family, nature of work, entertainment and education mean that 21st-century housing should be able to adapt to the needs of people at every stage of life.
Department of Housing