Applying Principles of Universal Design and to New Dwellings and Home Renovations

Universal design creates housing that can work for everyone. It makes housing accessible to those with disabilities. It also lets people stay in their homes as their circumstances change, without expensive renovations. And because a well-designed accessible unit doesn’t look different from a standard unit, it appeals to those who need special features — and to those who don’t. – CMHC

Practical tips to make each room accessible, reduce future costs and potentially increase resale value.

  1. Wide doors provide ease of movement for everyone
  2. Lever door handles can assist all types of people
  3. Floating vanities are wheelchair accessible and can be used by everyone.

Universal Design creates housing that can be used by everyone allowing all people to live in their homes longer.

Aging in Place

Accessibility for housing is not yet mandated in Canada however there are multiple resources to help creating barrier free homes. In development – Accessible Housing Standard B652. In the meantime, below are common accessibility features for aging in place:

grandpa, sleep, grandchild-4051229.jpg

Common Aging in Place Features:

  • One no-step path to a no-step entry that can be at the front, side, rear, or through a garage (1/4–1/2 in. thresholds)
  • No step access to patios, balconies, and terraces (1/4–1/2 in. thresholds)
  • Doorways have at least a 34 in. wide clear opening with appropriate approach clearances
  • Door handles are 34–38 inches from the floor
  • Hallways and passageways are 42 in. clear minimum
  • Access to at least one full bath on the main floor with reinforced walls at toilets and tubs for the future installation of grab bars
  • Cabinetry in kitchen that allows a person to work in a seated position
  • Light switches and electrical outlets 24–48 in. from finished floor
  • Stairways have tread widths at least 11 in. deep and risers no greater than 7 in. high
  • Good lighting throughout the house including task lighting in critical locations (e.g. under kitchen cabinets)
  • Non-glare surfaces
  • Contrasting colors to promote good perception of edges and boundaries
  • Clear floor space of at least 30 x 48 in. in front of all appliances, fixtures, and cabinetry
  • Front-loading laundry equipment
  • Ample kitchen and closet storage or adjustable shelving within 28–48 in.
  • Comfortable reach zones

(Steinfeld and White, 2010).



Based out of New Zealand, Lifemark Homes is a certification process to mark universally designed homes. Lifemark® rated homes are designed to be usable and safe for people of all ages and stages. Learn more about Lifemark certification standards below.


SafeScore is a tool designed by The Universal Design Project to measure of Universal Design features for homes.


SAFERhome’s mission is to promote the adoption and use of housing standards and practices that are safe, healthy and sustainable for everyone in the community. To achieve its objective SAFERhome provides home planning assistance, home inspection and certification programs for the new home construction industry.

Home Modification Canada

Home Modification Canada is an organization dedicated to helping Canadians find needed information about modifying their homes and connecting them with trusted industry professionals.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website on Universal Design for new Housing Units is a great resource to get started on UD principles and applications for your home.

Universal Design for Housing Videos

The Trend Toward Universal Design - Alair Homes

CityStream: Universal Design & Aging in Place

Universal Design for Housing Seminars

What is Adaptable, Visitable, and Universal Housing? LivABLE Design Summit


"We, humans, are complex adaptive systems. Collectively and individually, we seem to be attracted to things that threaten our well-being. Beyond the obvious vices and weaknesses this includes binaries, labels, hierarchies of power, and elitism. Our extra-large brains have been honed to be siloed and short term, rather than holistic and long term. Time famine, the need for speed, and the competition for attention has encouraged shallowness and fragmentation. What are the implications for well-being? What are the role and responsibilities of designers, and the implications for the practice of design in this existential predicament?⁠" ⁠ Jutta Treviranus - speaking on “Inclusive Ecosystems” at the LivABLE Design Summit on April 20 - 21.⁠
Headshot of Jutta Treviranus
Jutta Treviranus
Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and professor in the faculty of Design at OCAD University in Toronto