Home Organizing with Universal Design

You may have heard of Universal Design. This method employs barrier free design principles for intergenerational use of any space.  Universal Design evolved from Accessible Design, which is a process that addresses the needs of people with disabilities.   Universal Design addresses the needs of all people.  

There are some great ideas for employing Universal Design when organizing your home. Some of these ideas may make things easier even for those without a disability.  Here are a few tips.

Close at Hand – place utensils and appliances close to the appropriate work area even if that means that you need to duplicate some items.

Heavy on the Bottom – keep heavy pots, pans, dishes and mixing bowls on bottom shelves, along with canned foods and appliances.  I try to do this in most every kitchen I organize so no one gets injured removing heavy items.  The challenge with this method is that bending over can also be an issue with items that are heavy and placed down too low. Also, try not to put heavy items on the top shelf in closets or in the garage.

Pull-Outs – any shelf or drawer that rolls out is a blessing in the kitchen and bathroom especially.  I think most of us prefer pull-out drawers and shelves no matter what our level of ability. It simply makes your stuff easier to access and put away.

Unbreakable Items – choose good quality plastic containers (I like the ones with the lids that attach to the bottom for storage) and stainless steel bowls.  This might also be a good choice if you have young children who like to help out in the kitchen.

Rolling Carts – I am a fan of carts on wheels at home and at the office for transporting heavy or awkward items.  In the kitchen a rolling cart with a cutting block top is a great solution.  You can use it to take food and dishes from cupboard to table and as a work center in any location. A rolling file cart at the office is a great way to transport heavy paperwork.

Turn-tables – using a “lazy susan” on the counter or in a cupboard to avoid having to reach for things makes life easier.  They do cause you to lose valuable space especially in your cupboards so keep that in mind.  For corner cupboards in your kitchen there are also rollout wire racks and the fabulous LeMans system, which I adore for it’s design and ease-of-use.

If you are going to help someone you know with a physical disability or mental illness to organize their space, be sure to go slowly.  Think very carefully before introducing new solutions and be sure to preview what you are doing and review what you’ve done. Ask them to repeat what you have done and what they need to do to keep things organized.  Explain each step that you are taking and write it down in a notebook including each decision that you make so that they can refer back to it.  Consider creating instruction cards (or recording auditory instructions) with the steps that need to be taken to complete a specific task. Focus on what they ‘can’ do not what they ‘can’t’ do and use what already works for them to set up systems and solutions for staying organized. For more information Google® “assistive devices in the home”.

Do you use similar organizing systems in your home? What’s worked well in particular?

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