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Danise Levine, Assistant Director of the IDEA Center and Richard Bergman from Heartland Homes collaborated on the design of a universally designed model home that was included in the 2005 Horizon Home Show. Sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Builders Association, this year’s home show was located at Lake Forest in Amherst, New York and consisted of eight homes built in a new suburban tract. The show ran from July 9th through July 24th.
The Heartland Homes house was designed using universal design principles for "aging in place". Aging in place targets older and middle aged people and addresses their preference to stay in their own homes as they age. Adaptable design features make it easy to modify the house to suit individual needs or preferences of the residents as they change over time. The model house has all the features of a conventional house, but some design features are concealed until needed so the home can look the same as other houses. If modifications are required, they are readily achievable without the use of skilled labor and without changing the inherent structure of the home. For example, in this home, a no step entry, wider doors and hallways, barrier-free shower, maneuvering clearances, kitchen countertops at multiple heights, lower electrical switches, and other access features were clearly visible and integrated into the overall design. Other less obvious features included blocking behind the walls in all bathrooms to provide reinforcement for future grab bars and a concealed knee space at the kitchen sink with base cabinet doors that fold and slide back when needed.
This house was the only one in the show with a no-step entry. Therefore, people with mobility limitations could visit it. Ms. Levine contacted local disability organizations, advocacy groups and service providers and arranged many tours of the home. Her efforts illustrated the benefits of adaptable and universal design resulted to a large audience of people who would otherwise not attend a home show.
Visitors to the universally designed model home were asked to complete a brief survey so that the architect, builder and IDEA Center staff could assess their familiarity with universal design, their impressions of the home and the value of model homes as an education tool.