Our generation is the first to face caregiving to such an extent.  Today people live longer than ever before, growing frail and needing care for years, not months.


Hello again:


Thank you for coming to my website to visit and learn.  I trust you found some good resources in last month's newsletter.  To review the information or share it, just click at the top of this screen and you will find it.  As always, please email me if you have found other resources that have helped you, and I will share them in a future newsletter.


I received a tip from an occupational therapist regarding equipment.  She reported that Scottish Rite or Masonic associations sometimes accept donations of equipment like walkers, wheelchairs and hospital beds.  They then loan them out and only ask that they be returned when no longer needed.  I have used the Masonic Service Association to borrow equipment for my parents and husband.  These organizations may require that someone in your family is a member of that fraternity.  Check with them for specific details.


I have become aware that some long-term care policies may cover my services.  Check your long-term care insurance policy.  My services may be covered.


This month I am exploring the concept of universal design.  Many of us have modified our homes or the homes of those for whom we provide care.  Let's find out how we can make these modifications work for all the people who live in those homes.


The concept of universal design was created in 1993 by Ron Mace, an architect and wheelchair user.  He reasoned that if architects could design the proper environment prior to construction, later adaptations might not be needed.  He said universal design is "an approach that incorporates products as well as building features and elements which, to the greatest extent possible, can be used by everyone."


The universal design movement received a jump-start from the ADA (Americans withg Disabilities Act) in 1990.  The ADA provides guidelines for public and commercial facilities by individuals with disabilities.  However, universal design is applicable to housing for people of all ages and abilities.  Aesthetics also play a role because universaslly designed products and environments not only function well; they also look good.


Society may be somewhat reluctant to embrace universal design because it implies disability could happen to me.  However, universal design concepts benefit the parent with a child in a stroller, just as well as a person in a wheelchair or scooter.  It is not categorized for disabled or elderly persons only.  It meets the needs of multiple users while remaining silent and invisible.  Principles of universal design help to integrate rather than segregate.


In 1995, a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers came together to identify 7 principles of universal design.  They were published in 1997 by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University.  The principles are guidelines to educate and evaluate products and environments for the elements of universal design.  The specific principles may be found on the Center's website listed below.


Here are some examples of universal design:

  • Situating electric outlets higher on the wall and raising a dishwasher so the user doesn't have to bend to load it.
  • Good-Grips utensils by OXO were inspired for use by people with arthritis, but have features that make them convenient for all users.
  • Using photos without text equalizes skill level, reading and language.
  • Larger labels or readouts on household items such as themostats or the use of symbols such as red or blue for hot or cold on faucets are easier.  Sometimes stickers or labels can be used after purchase to make recognition easier.
  • Large switch buttons make activitation easier.  Colored tape on the edges of steps improves visibility and safety, as does removing throw rugs and adding nightlights.
  • Lever door handles, touch lights, and pull tabs on lids of juice or milk, reduce effort.  These designs allow for neutral body position with minimal physical exertion or repetition.
  • Improved accessibility includes:  raised toilet seats, wide doorways, and furniture groupings that allow for safe movement in the room.


Here are some of the more common accessibility features listed on the AARP website listed  below:

  •  No-step entry.  No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home's main rooms.
  • One-story living.  Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
  • Wide doorways.  Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide, let wheelchairs pass through.  They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
  • Wide hallways.  Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide.  That way, everyone and everything moves easily from room to room.
  • Extra floor space.  Everyone feels less cramped.  And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.

Here are websites with more information:


Center for Universal Design:  http://design.ncsu.edu/cud/

Universal Design Education Online:  http://www.udeducation.org/

AARP Home Design:  http://www.aarp.org/families/home_design


I have a page on my website entitled Presentations.  It contains information relating to universal design that is available to all of my clients with a special password.


Until next month, I wish you peace.




Dora Hutchens, OTR/L


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