|Universal Design||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Hornick (dhornicknycap.rr.com)|
|Date: Mon, 3 Aug 2009 04:32:36 -0700 (PDT)|
The following statement discusses the application of universal design principles to cohousing and the reason for it. It is meant to explain the use of this technology in the Mexicommunity project and to explain its relationship to avoiding other issues related to affordability. I need to clarify a misconception....."stressing that the community will be designed and helpful to those with physical needs" is not the issue. Rather, universal design is "design of as much of the environment as possible to be as useful as possible to as many people as possible". Universal design is not just for people who become incapacitated. It's also for such mundane functional issues as short stature, a characteristic shared by all children, for example. Light switches need to be lower than the usual 4 feet. Bathroom mirrors have to be designed / placed to be usable by children and people in wheelchairs alike. Universal design is also 'adjustable design'. Kitchen and bathroom design, in particular, should adhere to universal design principles. For example, there are now kitchen units that are motorized so that cooktop and sink units are mounted on a shelf that can be raised and lowered with a switch (up and down button). This arrangement permits comfortable use by people who are tall, short or sitting in wheelchairs as well as by children. Special electronic or mechanical interfaces or use of induction cooktops prevent children from burning themselves. The use of the traditional kitchen stove with an oven door that swings down from a bottom-mounted hinge doesn't work well once a person is in a wheelchair and the door becomes an obstruction. Placing the oven door hinge on the side eliminates this problem (and there are ovens designed with side mounted hinges). Bathrooms should be larger to provide for access by a wheelchair. A drain mounted in the floor of the bathroom permits inclusion of a wall-mounted shower head. Appropriately designed shower curtains shield shower spray and Special non slip floors provide protection from slip hazards. Such a bathroom is useable by all people as long as the control knobs for faucets are located with a little thought. Home automation systems permit a person to control lighting and heating and appliances with voice commands. Imagine yourself quadriplegic and lying in bed at night. How would you deal with lowering the thermostat, turning off a light or turning off (or on) the TV? How would you summon someone in an emergency if you were alone and elderly? Voice controlled automation systems are affordable, available and effective. They provide convenience for all of us....not just quadriplegic people in bed at night. Including universal design in original plans empowers people to provide self-care instead of relying on neighbors, friends and paid caregivers when functional decline or injury impedes capacity to use poorly designed living spaces. Universal design also means providing wider doorways, lower window sills, high electric receptacles, replacing doorknobs with lever handles, and eliminating stairs and even single steps at thresholds. It means providing lighting that can be adjusted to the changing needs of aging eyes and paying attention to eliminating built in fall risks. The most elegant (and expensive) example of universal design is the home of Cynthia Leibrock, an expert in universal interior design. Check out Cynthia's new home in Colorado: http://www.agingbeautifully.org/ranch.html Cynthia understands and agrees that her home would be difficult and too expensive to reproduce; but she created it to demonstrate over 180 universal design interventions. There are less expensive versions of these interventions, and not all of them have to be included in a home or apartment. No one knows with certainty when physical incapacity or functional or cognitive decline will occur in a person's life. The use of universal design to prepare for unexpected life changes is demonstrated by the following true story: http://cacad.org/articles/uliving.htm#intro Universal design prepares the living environment for unexpected changes in functional capacity and enables a person to maximize self-care potentials. Self-care is far less expensive than paying a personal care aide $20 per hour to compensate for poor home design. As far as social dysfunction and mental illness is concerned, I believe that there are some fairly effective interventions and preventive approaches. Clearly, relying on cohousing to solve these social issues is neither reasonable nor fair. Intentional communities with built in mutual support and social interaction are extremely important. I subscribe to the cohousing concept unreservedly as long as affordability is stressed. Cohousing units selling for half a million dollars work for people with the financial resources, but problems arise when residents begin to experience financial distress. Divorce is commonly precipitated by financial issues as is depression and aggressive behavior. I've been very careful to reduce the construction cost to a minimum while including universal design in the Mexicommunity project. The average cost of a home will be about $150,000. The daily cost of living will be about $20.00 (including heating, cooling, hot water, energy, food and TAXES). Financial profit for development has been stripped completely from Mexicommunity. Hopefully, with less stress related to financial matters, residents will not have to devote so much time to earning a living and will be able to attend to such issues as child rearing, communal meals, gardening, and helping one another when help is needed. Gardening will not only provide food (12 months a year), but also provide a way to exercise and maintain flexibility and function. I'm not so naïve that I believe that there will be no problems at Mexicommunity. Far from it. My hope is that each new problem will be effectively handled because the architectural and environmental design will be more flexible than many current cohousing communities. Cohousing is the correct concept, but it can't flourish in an unforgiving environment. I'm hoping that at Mexicommunity, we can create an environment that is optimized for cohousing and aging-in-place. No one knows with certainty when physical incapacity or functional or cognitive decline will occur in a person's life. The use of universal design to prepare for unexpected life changes is demonstrated by the following true story: http://cacad.org/articles/uliving.htm#intro Universal design prepares the living environment for unexpected changes in functional capacity and enables a person to maximize self-care potentials. Self-care is far less expensive than paying a personal care aide $20 per hour to compensate for poor home design. David Hornick dhornick [at] nycap.rr.com
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