Integration of Supportive Design Features and Technology: Students Will Locate and Use Information from the Internet and Become Familiar with Methods of Designing a Bathroom for the Elderly And/or People with Disabilities

By Lazaros, Edward J.; Ahmadi, Reza | The Technology Teacher, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Integration of Supportive Design Features and Technology: Students Will Locate and Use Information from the Internet and Become Familiar with Methods of Designing a Bathroom for the Elderly And/or People with Disabilities


Lazaros, Edward J., Ahmadi, Reza, The Technology Teacher


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Introduction

Builders of residential homes are integrating design principles that will be appealing to baby boomers (people who were born between 1946 and 1964). There are approximately 70 to 80 million baby boomers who compose almost one-third of the population in the United States of America. States such as California, Georgia, Florida, and Nevada have large baby boomer concentrations, and builders in these areas are trying to incorporate design features that will appeal to them. Builders are also trying to design homes with features that would appeal to those with physical disabilities and special needs.

People generally prefer to stay in their homes as opposed to moving to a retirement or assisted-living community (Perkins, 2003). According to the article Housing Selection Crucial for Retirees, "Many retirees and near retirees should be thinking about modifying their current home to be 'age-friendly' as they grow older so they can stay longer, even as their health begins to fail" (p. 8). If the opportunity to remodel a bathroom presents itself, a walk-in shower with a seat or room enough to roll in a wheelchair should be taken into consideration. Installation of wider doorways, handrails, and chair lifts are features that should be considered. Retirees should also consider relocating the master bedroom to the first floor and consider having first-floor laundry facilities. (Society for the Advancement of Education, 2003).

Regardless of whether individuals are considering purchasing, building, or retrofitting a home to be "age-friendly," there are several design principles that should be taken into consideration. In 1970, an architect named Ronald L. Mace and others developed seven Universal Design Principles that can be incorporated into new and existing structures to broaden accessibility, usability, and safety for all occupants. These design principles extend beyond simply making a residence "age-friendly" and seek to make the residence friendly for all. According to Perkins (2003), "The seven principles are: equitable use; flexibility; simple and intuitive; perceptible information; tolerance for error; low physical effort; and size and space for approach and use" (Para. 9). Regarding mobility and agility, Perkins suggests, "berms, ramps, wider doorways with lower thresholds, swing-clear door hinges, levered handles, sidewalk curb cutouts, high-density, low-pile carpeting, ground-floor bed and bathrooms, roll-in showers and handheld showers" (Para. 13). In addition to interior and exterior physical characteristics of the residence, the location of electrical components should to be taken into consideration. According to Perkins, "Electrical switches and thermostats no higher than 48 inches above the floor and electrical outlets no lower than 27 inches puts them within reach of virtually anyone" (Para. 10).

In a study to identify patterns of environmental support needed by people with disabilities, Stark (2001) found that environmental problems are highly individual. A plan for every individual is needed that should include multiple strategies (including architectural modification, assistive technology, programmatic support, and personal support).

Research has been conducted pertaining to the areas in the home where individuals often encounter accessibility issues. Gitlin, Mann, Tomit, & Marcus (2001) studied community-living elders in the western region of New York and examined their home modification needs and difficulties encountered in the home. They found that bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and entryways to rooms caused the most problems.

According to Gitlin, et al. (2001), "Most subjects encountered difficulties in bathrooms (88% of subjects), kitchens (76% of subjects), bedrooms (61% of subjects), entryways (58%), and in living or family room areas (55%)" (p. 781). According to Gitlin, et al., specific problems encountered in the bathroom included getting in/out of the tub, the lack of grab bars, problems with the toilet being too low, too small, or no grab bars, lack of hand-held shower, limited storage, bathroom that was too small, and difficulty with faucets.

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