Is Your Home ‘Guest Friendly’?

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If family and friends consistently turn down your invitation to holiday parties, backyard picnics, splash bashes and other events, maybe it’s not you.

Your home could be, well, uninviting to those who have special needs.

The same could apply to your vacation rental or investment property and explain why certain potential renters won’t apply.

Older family members, friends recuperating from an illness, people who need a wheelchair to get about may simply require certain environmental compensations for limits to their mobility, strength, range of motion and other conditions.

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) says what they may need are some physical accommodations in your home, the type of features that more and more often are being including in both new homes and remodeled existing homes — especially for the growing number of baby boomers who plan to make their current home their retirement home.

What they may need are elements of something called “Universal Design,” a design concept developed by Ronald L. Mace, an architect and wheelchair user who helped found the Raleigh, NC-based Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University.

Universal Design Principles can be applied to new and existing structures to broaden a structure’s accessibility, usability and safety for anyone from kids to retired adults and people with disabilities. The principles are equitable use; flexibility; simple and intuitive; perceptible information; tolerance for error; low physical effort; and size and space for approach and use.

The AARP is a major proponent of the design concept and offers Universal Design Modification Center to help those who want to stay put or simply make their house a more inviting home.

To determine if your home is guest friendly, ASID offers this checklist you can ask yourself about your home.

  • Does your home have at least one “barrier-free” entrance accessible without steps, but with an easy to open door?
  • Is there a bench or other seating available outside your front door to provide a comfortable environment for those who may need to sit until you are able to greet them?
  • Are the doorways and hallways in your home wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or large stroller?
  • Is there a bathroom on the main floor of your home? Is this bathroom large enough to accommodate someone in a wheelchair or using a walker? Can a disabled visitor or child easily use the commode or sink?
  • Are the area rugs in your family room, recreation room or other communal areas flat or recessed into the floor to prevent tripping and to accommodate a guest on crutches or using a cane?
  • The kitchen is the social center of the home where your guests are likely to gather. Is yours equipped with multilevel counter spaces to accommodate small kids, tall adults and people with range of motion limitations? Is it large enough to allow comfortable maneuvering by any guest?
  • Is the lighting in your living room, family room or other common area of a high enough wattage to accommodate guests with vision problems?
  • Are the interior doors in your home equipped with lever handles instead of traditional door knobs for weaker guests and those with limited gripping abilities?
  • Is there a smooth transition (no steps) to your backyard, patio or deck so your guests can easily enjoy both the indoor and outdoor areas of your home?

Qualified interior designers and universal design specialists (available through AARP) are educated and trained to ask these questions and answer them effectively to create living spaces with form and function to meet the needs of many.

Written by Broderick Perkins

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