Category: Smart Homes

Oct 12

After years of living in her beautiful Oakland, Calif., home, writer Norma Shattuck began experiencing increased mobility problems, first from arthritic knees and then from spine surgery.

norma.pngIn need of change, but not ready to give up her steeply staircased home, Shattuck researched how to transform her surroundings.

She nixed a pilgrimage to Lourdes — and praying for a miracle — in favor of more practical solutions: turning a small butler’s pantry into a first-floor bathroom and finding the right motorized lift that could circumnavigate her staircase.

Read Norma’s story here in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Oct 9

If you are new to the field of Universal Design, this article does a decent job of linking design principles to practical examples.

It shows that Universal Design enhances everyone’s life and is as much about social accessibility as it is about physical accessibility.

Sep 19

A Long Island, N.Y., community says it may fast-track applications for single-family homes that use Universal Design elements to create barrier-free buildings.

“This goes to the very heart of how society can design environments that provide access for all people,” said Lynn Evans, of Suffolk County Accessible.

Forty percent of the population of Suffolk County are seniors, baby boomers, and people living with disabilities. That said, few architects and builders consider the needs of that population in new construction, Evans said.

The plan would encourage wider doorways and step-less entry ways, which would make life easier for everyone, including people with baby strollers. The plan also addresses the fact that all of us are “temporarily abled” — meaning sooner or later we all need barrier-free buildings whether we are young, old, permanently disabled or recovering from surgery.

Advocates of the Suffolk County plan say it follows legislation in New York City, has mandated the use of Universal Design elements in new buildings since 1987.

Sep 8


Many of us stop using conventional bathtubs because we worry about falling when we step in and out of the tub.

It’s manufacturer says TubcuT converts an existing bathtub to a step-in shower in about half a day and for far less money than remodeling the bathroom.

TubcuT can be used on an existing fiberglass, acrylic, steel or cast iron bathtub, which can be restored should you ever want to return the tub to its original height. Click below to see a video of TubcuT being installed. For Cait’s take on grab bars click here and to learn about the hand-held shower head Marty uses, click here.

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Sep 5

Architects of the new $47.5 million Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, Calif., predict the building will become a national model for universal design when it opens in the Spring of 2010.

Universal Design Renovations: One Australian couple’s hands-on account and no-nonsense tips for renovating a home for disability access.

A thorough aging-in-place checklist from ToolBase Services – the housing industry’s resource for technical information.

Sep 4


Jerry Kuns, who is blind, wanted a tactile garden filled with gentle sounds and the lovely scent of a haven away from the city.

Kuns commissioned Sculpt Gardens to create a garden around the concepts of universal design that would let him experience his backyard sanctuary with his hands, feet, nose and ears.

Water cascades were used to create the sound while strategically placed boulders act as markers and guides.

The end result is something quite extraordinary. Click here to learn more and to see a slideshow of the garden from Dwell Magazine.

Eds. Note: Don’t get us wrong – we would take this garden in a heartbeat. It just doesn’t look very Gimpy friendly, which is what universal design is supposed to be all about. We’re guessing Kuns has every square inch memorized and navigates quite nicely, despite the garden’s varying terrain and exposed stone edges.

Sep 2

Each state should have a Kenny Cieplik. And each person should have a fully accessible home like Kenny’s.

home.pngKenny, 33, writes The Traveling Wheelchair, which reviews public spaces in Massachusetts with a mission to “help make the world more sensitive, respectful and accessible for all.”

Kenny faced no mobility obstacles until a cerebral hemorrhage at age 11 put him in a coma for eight months. When he awoke, his left side was paralyzed, his speech slurred, his vision impaired and he was unable to walk.

Recently Kenny moved from a nursing home to a fully accessible condo that could be the model home for Universal Design. He had a hand in designing much of it and did a fabulous job.

Thank you Kenny for inspiring us and reminding us through your work that, sooner or later, all of us face mobility issues.

Aug 14

As the concept of Universal Design matures, so do the many ways to make it more attractive while sticking close to the basics.

My Home Ideas has some terrific examples of rooms that are accessible to everyone – regardless of their age or personal architecture.

From seating to smart shelving, these ideas benefit children, aging parents and those of us with limited mobility. Even small changes that incorporate Universal Design make the entire home more comfortable for everyone.

For example, if you’re thinking of updating your plumbing fixtures and cabinet hardware, think of fixtures that are shaped like a “D” or a “U” – which makes it easier to operate faucets and open doors.

Click here to see some beautiful Universally Designed rooms from My Home Ideas.

Thanks to Elizabeth E. of South Portland, Maine – winner of a Mr. 7 Hands for alerting us to these ideas for safer and easier living in our homes.

Aug 4

Tokyo native Mac Funamizu’s futuristic ideas are gaining traction with developers aiming to design Gimpy Friendly products.

funamizu.pngFunamizu believes that bookshelves of the future will either be sliding hangers that rest under a desk to neatly tuck away and keep open pages intact (similar mechanically to a file cabinet), or staggered wall units with sliding tabs so you can sort books without pulling each one out.

“I’m very lazy. With this, I’d be able to put all the magazines and books scattered on my desk away,” Funamizu, 38, says of his bookshelf, seen here.

Click here to learn more about his ideas, including a computerized glass screen that when held over an object would tell you more about it.

(via Tokyo Mango)

Eds. Note: His computerized glass screen we understand, but we’re wrestling with how his bookshelf works. Funamizu insists his designs are so functional that even the Super Lazy will be able to use them. That appeals to us so we’ll trust him on that and stay tuned to his future.

Aug 1

This doorbell links wireless phone technology and an electronic door lock to let you talk with someone at the door and open the door using your cell phone.

waleli.pngMade by the European-based Waleli company, the phone is being marketed in Northern Europe with plans to sell it internationally.

We see several aspects of convenience and safety. People with mobility issues could talk to the person at the door, and let them in, without actually having to go to the door.

And when you are away, you can give the impression you are at home because the doorbell still would ring your phone, whether you are at work, on vacation or while running errands.

You also could open the door from afar if you’re running late and guests come early or the plumber arrives and you’re at work.


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