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What is Barrier-Free Design and How Does It Improve Quality of Life?

Barrier-free design is an approach to planning and constructing buildings suitable for everyone, regardless of physical ability.

People with limited mobility due to an injury, disability, or illness may struggle to access a home, shop, office, cinema, or almost any other type of location in which barrier-free design has been overlooked.

That can cause significant inconvenience and prevent many people from taking part in activities, accessing services, or living their lives as they would like to.

Barrier-free design typically includes:

● Ramps leading to exterior doors

● Desks or kitchen counters at a lower level for people unable to stand

● Wider doorways to fit wheelchairs

● Bathroom and kitchen sinks suitable for wheelchair users

● Accessible showers for easy access and use

However, while barrier-free design is increasingly common in public spaces and commercial buildings, it can be vital in the home, too. Modern solutions make improving domestic accessibility simpler than ever.

How is Barrier-Free Design Different from Universal Design?

Barrier-free and universal approaches to design are similar in many ways, but barrier-free design is focused exclusively on catering to individuals with disabilities.

Universal design, though, refers to an approach that accommodates people of all physical and mental abilities. It’s not solely for individuals living with disabilities — the aim is to create environments in which everyone feels comfortable. Buildings planned with this approach will be suitable for people of different heights, shapes, ages, and overall capabilities.

Common features in universal design include:

● Automated faucets

● Lever handles on doors (instead of rotating knobs)

● Ground-level entryways without steps

● Bright lighting suitable for all sight capabilities

● Handrail and railings to assist entry and exiting a home

While you can implement barrier-free design into your home to suit your needs or those of a loved one, the universal approach may be unnecessary. However, architects and developers working on building new houses can use universal design to ensure their properties are suitable for as many potential buyers or tenants as possible.

Examples of Barrier-Free Design Features in the Home

Implementing barrier-free design features into your home can be a complex process, particularly if it requires substantial work. But it can have a positive effect on your quality of life if you or a loved one currently struggles to navigate your home in a safe, comfortable, convenient way.

Here are four examples of features that can remove barriers and create a more accessible environment:

Remove Steps from Entrances

Ensure that doorways throughout the home (interior and exterior) are at ground level without steps, even low ones. These can be inconvenient for wheelchair users, people with impaired vision, or elderly individuals.

Install Grab Bars in the Bathroom

Grab bars provide a critical handhold when using the bathroom. This can be a dangerous environment for anyone who is infirm on their feet, uses a wheelchair, or has a vision impairment, as wet flooring can create a safety hazard and cause falls.

However, being able to grab a bar on a wall beside the toilet, door, bathtub, or shower can reduce the risk of injury significantly.

Roll-in Showers

A roll-in shower will improve bathroom safety: they remove the need to climb in or out of the tub and stand for long periods. You may find that taking a shower becomes much easier, and you might not need to rely on a caregiver or loved one for assistance.

Lowering Kitchen Counters and Shelves

The importance of accessible kitchen counters and shelves should never be overestimated. People living with disabilities may struggle to prepare food or reach essential items stored on high shelves if they’re placed too high.

That can cause severe inconvenience and leave you dependent on others for even the smallest task. Reducing the height of kitchen counters and shelves throughout the home can change that.

3 Benefits of Barrier-Free Design in the Home

Below, we’ll look at the main benefits of applying barrier-free design to your home and explore how it can improve your quality of life.

Increase Safety

One of the main benefits of using barrier-free design in the home is improved safety. Wider doorways, grab bars, step-free doorways, ramps, and other barrier-free design features can decrease danger significantly.

You can enjoy greater peace of mind when navigating your home without the fear of falling or becoming stranded in a narrow doorway.

Restore Personal Independence

Relying on a caregiver, friend, or loved one to help you perform essential tasks — such as showering or using the toilet — can be challenging. But taking a barrier-free approach to designing or overhauling your bathroom will help you restore your independence. That may make you feel more comfortable, confident, and relaxed at home.

But barrier-free design can improve accessibility in other areas of the home, too. For example, installing stairlifts will help you go up or down your stairs in a seated position, at a stable pace.

You won’t need to rely on help to move from floor to floor you can sit in the lift, use the controls to glide up or down, then climb out of the seat when it safely comes to a stop. Various types of stairlifts are available, catering to diverse physical needs and budgets.

Make Your Home a More Welcome Space for Guests

If you have friends or relatives affected by mobility limitations, you may feel unable to invite them over if your home needs work to be more accessible. For instance, perhaps their wheelchair prevents them from getting through your doorways comfortably or they struggle to make their way up your stairs.

However, changing your home in certain ways to improve its accessibility will enable you to create a safer, more welcoming space suitable for anyone. As a result, you may get to see friends or relatives in your own home more frequently.

How Can You Make Your Home More Accessible with Barrier-Free Design?

Total Access Solutions provides a wide range of barrier-free solutions encompassing stairlifts, ramps, and more. Contact our friendly team today to learn more about how we can make your home more accessible, comfortable, and safe.

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