About Universal Design

Can you really design something for everyone?

Yes! Universal design is about integrating many accessible and user-friendly features together as optimally as possible, so that a design truly works for anyone. If an important detail is overlooked, the overall “universal” functionality of a home may be compromised.

If universal design is done well, it’ll offer the flexibility needed for extra features to be easily added. Specialty equipment that doesn’t fall within the scope of universal design is sometimes necessary if an individual has a health condition or specific need. It’s much easier and less costly to do so if the design is built universally.

Is universal design expensive?

It depends. Doing a remodel? Yes – most homes were not built with universal design characteristics in the past, so retrofitting some homes will be a challenge financially. Building new? Not necessarily as costly. Planning for the basics of increased floor space, wide doorways, and no step entry upfront will make the process less costly.

Deciding where you want to mount outlets, light switches, towel bars, and heating/cooling controls for easy reach and visibility does not require extra cost. Nor does choosing colors for walls, flooring, trim, cabinetry and countertops. Types of switches, faucet hardware, door hardware, and cabinetry hardware are all easy and cost effective changes to make.

Adding anything custom will increase cost. Cabinetry/countertops, appliance type, and lighting may cost more. Yet, it’s important to think through how some of these features will increase the ability for someone to use the space based on the type of features chosen.

Keeping an open discussion with service providers about these features will be essential.

Isn’t this just something for people with disabilities?

This is a major misinterpretation. The features and principles used in the design of homes benefit everyone when built universally. More space to move around, wide doorways and hallways for carrying items and moving items, benefits those of any age, size, or ability. Planning on having children and worried about them falling down the stairs? Thinking of having family visit and spend time overnight for the holidays? What about moving in a relative to your home? We can’t predict the future for even temporary illnesses or injuries. Having these features in the home before a situation occurs is just smart planning.

Functional Design Audit: The Survey

When should I do a Functional Design Audit?

  1. Before starting any remodeling projects to get a baseline of what can be improved to provide more function in the home.
  2. Before beginning construction on a new space. This can be used to assess blueprints or in the design of a new space.

What sections of the home are surveyed?

Our survey is based on any area of the home someone would perform any activities – so that’s basically everywhere. Parking, Route to Entrance, Entrance and Landing, Interior/Exterior Spaces, Multi-Story Access, Controls, Power, and Security, Bedroom (up to two), Main Bathroom, Kitchen, Laundry, and Amenities/Services.

How long will it take me to complete the survey?

If this is your first time completing the survey. It could take an hour or more. We look at features in the entire home! If you plan to be taking this survey more frequently, once you get used to the format and learn what the survey is asking for, it could take less than 30 minutes.

What tools do I need?

  • The assessment via paper (plus pen) or online version (phone, tablet, laptop).
  • Measuring tape
  • Angle Finder
  • If a space isn’t currently built, the blueprints to a new space would be handy.
  • Access to a camera (optional but recommended)

Do I have to provide pictures?

No but visuals of a built space plus a written description provides much more value to the entire report. We have instructions on what pictures to take and how to take them in another document.

Do I have to fill out the entire survey if I only want to assess one section of the home?

We recommend you take the time to fill out the entire survey to get a baseline for all areas of the home. You will receive results for all areas which will allow you to prioritize your projects. If you just want to look at the bathroom section now, that’s fine – but you’ll still have the results for other areas if you want to address them in the future.

Can I start the survey online, save it, and go back to it?

You sure can! We want the process to be as easy for you as possible. However, once you click submit it has been sent to us and you will need to contact us regarding any revisions or additions.

What if I want to change something in the survey after I’ve submitted it?

It will take us 3-5 days to complete your report. If you find that you need to make a change, contact us as soon as possible and we’ll try and make the change before the report is complete. We understand that it’s easy to miss something, and we can easily change it on our end so you do not have to fill out the entire survey again.

Why should I take this survey twice?

The first analysis of the survey is the baseline. Once changes are made, a follow-up survey will show how much improvement the space has functionally based on updated features. It’s like those makeover shows – a before and after.

The second survey is included at no extra cost!

Do you have an international version of the home survey?

No not yet. It is something we would like to do in the future! Let us know if you would be interested in this option!

Do you offer surveys for anything other than homes?

We are thinking about offering more in the future. Stay tuned.

Functional Design Audit: Your Report

Can you really put a score on universal design?

Yes. Universal design is a process of implementing well thought out features into a space that compliment the users’ current and future needs. The more flexibility and planning that is integrated into a design, the more functional it will be for the users, thus receiving a higher score.

What information will I receive in the report?

  • A list of current home features gathered from information provided in the survey.
  • A UD+ Rating (score)  for each space assessed and one cumulative rating for the entire home.
  • Suggestions on features that will increase the access and usability of each spaces plus a way prioritize their importance.
  • Tips and tools to increase understanding of universal design and help provide information to guide people in getting started when implementing universal design into a home project.

How soon will I receive the report?

Once we receive your survey results, we need time to analyze the data and put it into a usable format for you or your customers/clients. We will send two bound copies right to your door! The process will take 3-5 business days plus shipping.

Can you give me advice on how to make the changes?

No. A professional builder/remodeler, architect, or interior designer is your best resource on the exact details on how to make changes to your specific space. We base our survey on the current features of the space and what features if/when added would increase the usability of the space. We base this audit on increasing function based on environmental features/characteristics, but do not have credentials to give specifics in implementing the features.

I have a specific health condition. Is this taken into account in the report?

The process of putting universal design characteristics in a home helps achieve increased function for a wide variety of people on a general level. Universal design does make it easier to put speciality equipment into a space if needed. This report only addresses environmental design features that if in place would increase access and user-friendliness for a wide range of people. It would not be ethical for us to recommend specific adaptations for health related conditions without meeting you and learning about your situation. We recommend consultation with an occupational therapist (or another qualified healthcare provider with training in home modifications) to perform a specific evaluation on your individual needs to make sure those are addressed in the home design. We do offer this service in conjunction with the home survey in our service area.

Do you give recommendations on specific products and brands in your report?

We are not affiliated with any companies where we try to push their brand. The report gives suggestions on features to look for in flooring, lighting, and kitchen/bath products but does not specify a certain company.

Can I copy the suggestions in the report and use it for another property?

No. Each suggestion is based on the property being assessed in a specific report.

Content in the tips section of the report may be used under a creative commons license and shared only by giving us (Universal Design Partners) credit.