Important Universal Design Numbers to Remember

universal design blueprints

When making changes to your home, many people neglect knowing the important numbers before picking up a hammer and nails. Numbers like the height of a counter top that works for kids and adults or how many feet of space should surround a toilet to provide sufficient wheelchair access are particularly important.

It's very rare that we can predict the future, but building or renovating with universal design numbers in mind is a good way to ensure you and your loved ones will always be safe in your home. If you take into account that you will have people of varying levels of independence in your home, knowing the right way to approach renovations will rely on numbers.

Although it can be difficult and costly to renovate an entire home for a completely universal layout, there are some simple upgrades you can do to better you existing layout. However, for those brave DIY souls planning large-scale renovations or designing their dream homes, here are a few simple universal design numbers that you should know in order to build a home that is accessible for everyone you invite in.


house with wheelchair ramp

This is the ratio for knowing how high and how long to construct wheelchair accessible ramps. For every 1 inch of height, you need 12 inches (or 1 foot) of ramp length.

For instance, if a set of steps is 12 inches high, the ramp needs to be 12 feet long. If space permits, you can build a straight up and down ramp. Alternatively, you can curve or corner the ramp to suit your spatial limitations.

Bonus number: 8.3% is the steepest gradient that is workable for senior citizens, according to the AARP. Gradients in a home are important to help people of varying levels of mobility. So, when you are thinking of making sections of your home more amenable for those that have issues with stairs or moving between rooms, this is a great number to keep in mind.

32-38 inches

universal design handrails around toilet in bathroom

If installing handrails in your bathroom, whether for the bathtub, shower, or toilet areas, this is the range for appropriate height: 32-38 inches.

Getting in and out of low places is an issue from many, be they children, elderly, disabled, or recovering. Handrails can be a great help to not only their physical selves, but also to their senses of independence.

Keep in mind that bathtub railings should be installed at a slant for ease of use.

164 Feet

home with handicapped accessible driveway

If you're building your dream home from scratch, don't forget about parking! For disabled people, parking should be a maximum of 164 feet away from the entrance or exit. Make sure to keep this figure in mind when you are planning your outdoor spaces within the universal design framework.

This number applies whether it is a garage, communal parking, or on the street parking. So, renters and condo owners who are disabled should be aware of this number too.

Final Thoughts

Take these universal design numbers and use them to help you figure out how to best configure your dream home so that it can be accessible for anyone who enters. People of different levels of mobility often have trouble asking for help when they need it, so creating a space where they feel confident to move around independently is an important way to making them feel welcome in your home.