New Website Hopes to Create "Environments for All"
The Northwest Universal Design Council (NWUDC) is delighted to announce the launch of their new website: www.environmentsforall.org.
The user-friendly site offers information, resources and guidelines to educate and promote the use of Universal Design. Universal Design is a concept for designing all aspects of the built environment—homes, landscapes, commercial development—with the goal of making them accessible to every person, regardless of age or ability.
This virtual resource center contains helpful information for builders, home remodelers, and local planning departments, as well as for people who are looking for a place to live that will meet their changing needs as they age.
Visitors to the site can walk through a room-by-room "home checklist" which everyone from apartment hunters to builders can use to help find and create safe, convenient and comfortable places to live. The home checklist was developed by an organization in St. Paul—East Metro Seniors Agenda for Independent Living (SAIL)—and includes tips on low cost and easy-to-implement features such as lever style door handles and rocker style light switches.
The NW Universal Design Council formed in 2000 to provide a local forum for collaboration and discussion on universal design. The Council, whose mission is to "create environments for all," is composed of a diverse group of designers, architects, builders, and advocates for older adults and people with disabilities.
Margaret Casey, a Council member and Aging Services Planner, says, "We want to change the way designers, builders and consumers think, and encourage design that serves our needs over a lifetime, not just a particular stage in our lives."
Universal Design goes beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and accessibility. According to Margaret, "ADA is the floor—the minimum standard. Universal Design is the ceiling—what we should be striving to achieve in our homes and public spaces."
Reaching for the ceiling doesn't need to cost a lot, according to Emory Baldwin, an architect whose universally designed home near Green Lake recently won an award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He estimates it cost less than 1% of the total project to incorporate these features in the initial design.
Emory also sees an increasing awareness of the benefits of Universal Design. "Baby boomers and custom home buyers have started asking for these features," he says. "As designers and builders respond to meet these needs, a broader range of consumers will benefit."
The Council developed the new website as one way to increase this awareness. They hope people will refer to the site before remodeling or building, and when looking for a place to live, whether that be a new home, a retirement center or a low-income apartment.