Putting universal design principles to work can make houses more livable and comfortable, and more welcoming to all guests, regardless of age or ability, according to Kansas State University universal design experts, who offer the following ideas for applying universal design at home:


  • Locate a shower or tub on the home's ground floor.
  • Include a vanity sink that moves up and down at the touch of a button, or a bowl that hangs over the edge of the vanity to accommodate a wheelchair.
  • Install a faucet with a retractable nozzle for easier reach.
  • Have a mirror that tilts forward, for comfortable use by a wheelchair user.
  • Install a taller toilet and foldable grab bars to help users retain their balance.
  • Provide a side-entry walk-in tub with a height-adjustable showerhead.
  • Provide a roll-in shower.
  • Consider including a first-floor bathroom with these universal design features.


  • Arrange cupboards for easy access to heavy items. For example, place cups and plates on a lower shelf. Or install cabinets that move up and down for easy reach.
  • Use turntables or a Lazy Susan to organize frequently used items in a refrigerator or cupboard.
  • Provide lower countertops with higher toe-kick space to better accommodate wheelchair users.
  • Use large handles on cabinets to make them easier to open and close for those with arthritic hands.
  • Install the oven higher off the ground to provide ease when moving items from oven to countertop.
  • Choose a dishwasher that pulls out like a drawer for easier access.
  • Provide brighter lighting under cabinets.


  • Filter or block out harsh light that can hurt the eyes.
  • Provide flat thresholds that are easily navigated by someone using a wheelchair or walker, or even someone who shuffles his or her feet.
  • Install non-slip flooring in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.

Kansas State University has a universal design laboratory that has a display of these principles and products.
More information about the facility and universal design is available online at www.humec.k-state.edu/atid/udf/.