Accessibility For All In Decor and Design

Accessibility in Decor and Design is not just for the handicapped but for everyone.  Design and decorating should focus on the individual needs of the homes inhabitants, not the mass population. 

What the heck does that mean you ask?  That means making the space fit to the person or people who are living there.  For instance, in the area where I live, a small town in Southeast Idaho, I have noticed a few trends in home construction…  Can you say brown?  Almost all walls in the home tours and open houses are painted brown or dark taupe.  There is very little deviation from this trend.  One of the problems I see with this trend is that as you age, your eyes also don’t see as well as they used to and things seem darker.  Add to that an already dark space and you have a recipe for disaster and even depression.  Older eyes require more light to see things clearly, the dark walls will absorb the light creating an even darker space.  In fact, as you get age, your tired eyes will see color that is slightly yellowed. 

Another trend in home construction is the inclusion of very shiny wood floors and lots of ceramic tile, even marble or very slick tile in the bathrooms and showers.  While these elements have a lot of eye bling, there is a very large safety concern.  The floors present a slip hazard.

Another thing that is prevalent in home construction is the use of granite, everywhere there is granite.  I realize granite is a status symbol to many people but is someone who is on a limited income in there 60’s and 70’s going to want to be sealing their countertops once a year or more and what about the fumes and the energy required by the person to seal it?  You may be saying you aren’t in your 60’s or 70’s but chances are quite good that you will eventually be there and living in the same home.  Our population is aging and the Baby-Boomers are already in their 50’s and even older.  If you like the look of granite, I highly recommend a quartz product like Silestone quartz: it never needs sealed, it is extremely strong and it is not porous.  Regular laminate countertops are very easy to care for and are great for the budget minded like those on a limited income.  There are some beautiful patterns now that simulate the look of granite- just don’t go shiny- they scratch and can’t be repaired.   

Home construction trends include the prevalence of very tall cabinets in the kitchens- looks very pretty but how does a woman in her sixties who has a touch of Arthritis get to things on the top shelf?  There are so many products now that allow you customize your areas.  Consider pull-out cabinets and varying the heights of workspaces so that you can work from a seated position.  Even children benefit from varying the heights of work surfaces.   

Consider that very shiny, sleek stainless steel refrigerator that is so in vogue and sought after.  A person with restricted movement is going to have a hard time wiping

fingerprints off.  By choosing the textured stainless steel look, you will still achieve the look without so many finger prints. 

Another factor to consider is the microwave and its placement; it is very unsafe for a child or anyone who is shorter lifting down a hot dish from an over the range microwave.  The NKBA recommends placing the microwave controls below 48” (that is 4’).  Your countertop is actually a great location as long as you have a space beside it to place the hot items when you take them out.

Simple things and some pre-planning can go a long way to making your life safer and easier.  The hippest, hottest trends may look really cool but consider if they will they stand the test of time- your time.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.  Thanks for reading and take care.

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