When Rosemarie Rossetti lost the use of her legs in a freak accident in 1998, she and her husband Mark Leder focused on getting her well. Their experience has become a critique on traditional homebuilding and an impressive exercise in true universal design. Finding the home they lived in would never work for Rosemarie’s new needs, the couple was further discouraged by the dearth of universal design options offered by area builders. Their solution was to become general contractors themselves and built the ultimate universal design custom home.
Today, the Universal Design Living Laboratory is Rosemarie and Mark’s home and office, and an education center for builders, architects, and the public to learn how to create homes that work for all of their residents, no matter their age or ability. Products editor Lauren Hunter recently toured the UDLL and found a number of details worth sharing. Here are nine of her favorites.
Safe and Sound: Knox Box
In emergency situations, first responders will gain access to a home in the most efficient ways possible. If this means breaking down a door, so be it – unless you have a Knox Box. This mini safe works similarly to a lock box that a Realtor might use when showing a home. The fire department has a key to the Knox Box, which stores your emergency house key inside, allowing them to open a door properly rather than breaking it down. Because, as Mark points out, the last thing homeowners should be thinking about in an emergency situation is how much door replacement costs.
Outdoor Enjoyment: Planter Boxes
Adjusting to life in a wheelchair made Rosemarie’s love of gardening a challenge. Mark says chair-height planters bring the gardening to a convenient height for Rosemarie to roll up to and tend any time she likes. The landscaped back yard also incorporates paver ramps and pathways so the couple can enjoy all of its amenities together.
See Through: Multi-level Peep Holes
Traditional entry doors have peep holes positioned at a height between 60 and 66 inches. Consider adding a peephole at closer to 48 inches for wheelchair users, children, and homeowners short of stature. Or, let the door glass do the work for you. In addition to daylighting as a universal design benefit, the glass in this ProVia door has clear panes for viewing at three different heights in the door.
Cooking Confidence: Easy Access Burners
ADA-compliant ranges put the cooktop controls at the front of the appliance so users can access them easily without reaching over hot surfaces. The UDLL takes things a step further by installing individual burners side by side in the cooking area, eliminating the problem of hard-to-reach back burners. In this configuration, Rosemarie can easily and safely reach each cooking element, as well as vent hood controls.