What is ADA?
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) provides barrier-free design for people who are physically challenged. It was created for state and local government buildings, public accommodations as well as commercial buildings and since it was introduced in 1990, it has become easier now than ever for people to pursue everyday tasks without restriction.
However, ADA does not cover residential design and instead the it's commonly referred to as Universal Design. This allows people to live in the comfort of their own home with freedom of accessibility and safety. Sometimes universal design is called ‘Aging in Place’. Aging in place – just what it says. As people age, they lose stature and strength, their vision and hearing become impaired, and they may have mobility problems. The elderly can maintain their dignity by being comfortable at home for their remaining years.
Universal Design can be used in any home with young or old occupants. It satisfies the needs of people in all stages of life. It does not scream ‘hospital’ or ‘nursing home’. It’s not obvious, which eliminates stigmatization and segregation.
- It takes into consideration individual preferences, for example, right- and left-handedness.
- It is flexible, therefore adaptable.
- It is not complex to understand, so it appeals to a wide range of literacy and language skills.
- It works with the senses. Information is easy to perceive through pictures, words, sounds and touch.
- It minimizes hazards with warnings of unintended actions that can have negative consequences.
- It takes minimal physical effort to operate to reduce fatigue.
- It allows plenty of space for comfortable personal use, assisted devices or a personal assistant.
Age and disability are unfortunately not subjects often associated with style and fashion. This is slowly changing and the current trend for minimalism may offer a boost to creating accessible but stylish homes. A lot has been written on the practical side of making homes accessible, but a strictly utilitarian focus can be not only unattractive but also dehumanizing. Wheelchair Accessibility is a vital part of making a home accessible to someone confined to a wheelchair. Jaffe Design Associates has experience working with physically disabled homeowners to help them improve their homes based on their own specific needs.
Designing for the disabled and elderly
So how can we help you design for the disabled and elderly? Well we design for humans in all forms and shapes. There are a huge variety of issues that can affect how we interact with our environment and what different people require varies from person to person.
For example a wheelchair user will benefit from low surfaces with space underneath. The same design will be problematic for a tall person with a bad back. Having said that there are also some basic tips and tricks such as installing lever handled taps and door handles which will make life easier for everyone.
Stairs are incredibly useful, if you live in any house that has more than one floor. They are easier for most people to climb than ramps and far more efficient. They can also be incredibly problematic and not just for people with wheelchairs.
For people who are partially sighted, need to use walkers or have other issues with walking then any step presents a serious trip hazard. Stairs present an even greater hazard, not only because people may fall down them, but also because they can be incredibly tiring to climb.