• Open sightlines: Connections between rooms should be as open as possible, both for traffic issues and to avoid any one shared space being too isolated.
• Introduce contrasts: Especially for sight-impaired persons, colors and textures can be simple and reliable indicators of a change in direction, floor level or other features.
• Choose user-friendly hardware: Manual dexterity and grip strength vary widely in individuals and will change for one person over time, so plan for those differences. Lever door handles (vs. round knobs) are a good example of friendlier design.
• Multilevel storage: Allowing access to storage at many levels ensures that items can be placed and retrieved by the person who uses them most, whether standing or sitting.
• Expand bathrooms: Bathing and grooming rituals and toilet use are daily practices that may require assistance for some, so spaces should allow for both mobility aids and human helpers.
• Window placement: Taller windows, with their sills placed low, help ensure that everyone can take in the views.
There are dozens of other smart amenities and details built into the book’s featured homes, and Pierce devotes entire chapters to different room types — approaches and entries, living and dining areas, kitchens, baths, bedrooms and utility spaces. It turns out there is a small irony inherent in the practice of “universal” design; some of the best solutions are tailored personally to the needs and abilities of individual users.
The book does a nice job of balancing the human and technical issues of a complex subject, and of highlighting good design aesthetics in the process. It seems most discussions of universal design topics are short articles focused on wheelchair users. The broader approach that Pierce takes here is a welcome and eminently useful exception.