So how do we solve this dilemma? We might begin by taking a high-end solution – one that is quite technical and often beyond the electrical or experience needs and requirements of the people who could benefit from such a solution – and re-engineer it to a simpler design. Call it reverse engineering or a scaling down, but many products that really can and should be universal design don’t find their way into simpler designs or ones with a low-budget because of price point.
Maybe we can have it both ways – an acceptable solution that is appropriate for anyone and at a price that allows for its use – even in low-budget or fixed income situations. This does not mean that all solutions need to be accomplished with the scaled-back versions, but they should within our grasp to suggest and use.
Consider that we might have a basic concept to serve the needs of people in the kitchen or bath, for instance, and it can exist in a high-end design with touch activation, bluetooth technology, motorized adjustments, and more, or it can exist in a more non-electronic version that accomplishes similar functions but requires manual adjustments rather than electronically or virtually.
If universal design is really going to be for anyone regardless of age, ability, size, or other common human performance factors, we need to observe another inclusive aspect, and that is financial. Universal design should appeal to people across income strata or financial ability to have just certain high-end solutions for their issues. We owe to the people we serve to offer sensible, intuitive, low-impact solutions that work for anyone – regardless of where they live, their income level, the value of their home, or other economic factors.
As we create aging in place solutions for our clients, we can offer them ones made for their specific needs, but whenever possible we can fashion them in a way that means that anyone living in their home with them, people coming into their homes to visit or because they were invited (visitability), or those that might own that home in the future will be able to take advantage of those features as well as those for whom they have been produced.