Four Design Concepts

The design concepts presented here will change the way you think about the features of your home and plan for the future. They outline practical steps you can take to make your home more useable by all people, regardless of age or abilities, at little or no cost. This information is based extensively on literature published by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina University, a leader in the development and promotion of this new way of thinking about residential design.


Universal Design involves incorporating products as well as building features and elements which, to the greatest extent possible, can be used by everyone. Universal features are generally standard building products or features that have been placed differently, selected carefully, or omitted. Done well, universal design becomes a virtually invisible element.

Adaptable Design is a planning approach that keeps your options open. Adaptable features are either adjustable or capable of being immediately and easily added or removed to adapt the home to individual needs or preferences. For example, concealed blocking for grab bars and “stacked closets” that create a space suitable for the installation of an elevator are adaptable design features.

Visitable Design encourages you to think about the needs of people who may be visiting your home. Most of us have friends and family facing mobility issues who want to visit us at home. Consider installing at least one no-step entry into the house either through the front, back, or garage door. Something as simple as installing an extra handrail or lever-style door handles can make your home safer and more comfortable for certain visitors.

Accessible Design focuses on the specific needs of a person with disabilities. The goal is to create a custom-tailored design that is both unique and mobility friendly. Often, these design features are permanently fixed and very apparent. Some typical features include providing sufficient clear space for wheelchairs, knee spaces under sinks and counters, and installing switches and other controls in convenient locations.

Note: use the drop down menu on the left to find more information about each of these design concepts.