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Housing : March 2009
Universal Design universal design a home for life There are moves to promote the ideas of universal design in mainstream housing. John Dodds reports. H IA is working with the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) to foster the acceptance and application of universal design principles in the Australian housing industry. Sometimes confused with ‘accessible housing’, the principles of universal design are broader than that – looking at homes to suit a range of ages and lifestyle needs. ANUHD defines universal design as ‘the design of products, services and environments to be useable by everyone regardless of age or ability’. Convenor of ANUHD, Amelia Starr, wants us to move beyond the term ‘accessible housing’ which she says is associated primarily with housing for older people and people with disabilities. The term ‘universal design’ broadens the concept while still retaining the principles of safe and accessible home design. HIA agrees. ‘Universal design principles benefit not just older people and those with disabilities,’ Amelia explains. ‘It’s about building in features which will benefit occupants across the home’s entire lifespan – for example, in the first family home, wider doors and a level entry make it easier to bring in the groceries, strollers, and young children. ‘People don’t like to think about future-proofing their homes because they struggle to see the immediate benefits. Baby-boomers are often not ready to think about longer-term needs and younger home occupants are not prepared to think that their needs may change. It’s not until a person has an accident or a sports injury that they realise how difficult their home is to get around, especially if the bathroom is on an upper floor.’ Set up in 2001, ANUHD is a largely voluntary national network which originated in the disability rights movement. Over time it has evolved to include a range of organisations and interests concerned with designing homes that are more liveable across their lifespan. ‘Our key role is to promote consolidated efforts around the country to encourage a whole-of-government approach to universal housing design,’ Amelia says. ‘Over the past 18 months we’ve been focused on building strategic relationships with organisations such as HIA that have such an influence on the housing market.’ The network’s current emphasis seeks voluntary involvement by influential 20 HOUSING MARCH 2009 Photographer: David Sanderson