When the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law on July 26, 1990, it was a watershed moment that brought regulations to public spaces which may seem second nature today. Think about curb cuts on sidewalks: Originally designed for wheelchair users, these ramps are just as helpful for those with baby strollers or bicycles. More than 25 years later, however, this all-inclusive approach to design has yet to be regulated in private spaces, and residential building standards are often still based on an imagined user that’s able bodied and right-handed.
The rise of multigenerational households—which have doubled in the United States since 1980, according to the Pew Research Center—and increasing interest in “aging in place” means more and more homeowners are thinking about safety and accessibility. These concerns are imperative in the kitchen and bathroom, where the body is often most active and at its most vulnerable. In tackling the topic, we reached out to designers and architects who specialize in universal design to share their tips for creating kitchens and bathrooms that proactively address potential challenges for both ends of the age and mobility spectrums. The good news is that with thoughtful planning and foresight, we can not only mitigate hazards but also remove barriers to create safe, functional environments. And with one in five Americans projected to be 65 or older by 2030, that’s not just good design; it’s good sense.