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Kitchen Q&A: Universal Design Kitchens

We recommend sources of information for designing a universally accessible kitchen

Q: After helping my 89-year-old mother navigate kitchens and bathrooms that are no longer user-friendly, I realized the need for addressing housing concerns of the elderly. While my husband and I are still relatively young, we want to either build a home or renovate our home with our future needs in mind. Can you point me to sources for such information?

A: The kind of home design you are referring to is generally known as "universal design," which the Center for Universal Design defines as "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."

Extensive information can be downloaded at the center's Web site at www.design.ncsu.edu/cud. The site lists many links, including a universal design publications list, resources for floor plans, McGraw Hill's "Universal Design Handbook", the National Association of Home Builders' Directory of Accessible Building Products, and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department's publication "Residential Remodeling and Universal Design: Making Homes More Comfortable and Accessible".

Other sources include the American Association of Retired Persons {www.aarp.org/life/homedesign) and books such as Building for a Lifetime: The Design and Construction of Fully Accessible Homes (Taunton Press; 1994), The Accessible Home: Updating Your Home for Changing Physical Needs ( Creative Publishing International; 2003), and The Accessible Housing Design File (Wiley; 1991).

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