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The Living Laboratory: An Example of Universal Design

What if you built a home that was also a research tool?

Rosemarie Rossetti and her husband Mark Leder did exactly this when they created the Universal Design Living Laboratory. In 1998, Rosemarie Rossetti was involved in a bicycle accident that paralyzed her from the waist down. Because of her new condition and the need for a wheelchair, her home was a nightmare to maneuver and live in. Walkways and doorways were too narrow for her wheelchair, doing laundry in her top-loading washing machine was almost impossible, and even pushing herself over the carpet tired her out. Rosemarie was frustrated, limited, and stuck. Something needed to change.

Home Designed with Accessibility in Mind

In 2003, Rosemarie and Mark set out to build a home featuring universal design principles and green building techniques, along with home automation and feng shui. Today, the home not only serves their needs but is also used as a educational tool for builders, designers, architects, and homeowners.

To learn more, you can read about the project or take a virtual tour. While you’re touring, keep on the lookout for these aspects of universal design:

  • Wood floors and other hard surfaces throughout the home
  • Wide walkways and doorways
  • Varying countertop heights
  • Open space underneath countertops
  • The ugly institutional feel (hint: you won’t find this one!)

Consider Universal Design

If you’re thinking about building or remodeling, consider making your home accessible to those with different abilities. As Rosemarie says, “a home designed with universal design principles certainly makes life easier, not only for those with mobility limitations but also those who are young, old, short, or tall . . . Universal design is for everyone!”

By Katie MacGillivray

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