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About Universal Design

Susan is a frequent lecturer on the topic of Universal Design – an inclusive design approach for products and the environment that enables access and usability for people of most abilities. Universal design is distinctive for its invisible, common-sense design rather than for features more commonly identified with mandated elements from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, Susan is a former contributing writer to the Chevy Chaser Magazine on the topic of Universal Design.

     

Rather than thinking of universal design as a design approach for people with handicaps, it is useful to think of UD as a conscious attempt to alleviate handicapping environments. Although there are seven principles that are characteristic of Universal Design, they boil down to the simple notion that product and environmental design should allow people of all abilities an inclusive and non-stigmatizing opportunity for use. “Uncomplicated, simple to understand and to use, effortless,” are some descriptors of Universal Design. People who use a TV remote or an automatic garage door opener usually give no thought to what life-enhancers these universally designed products are to people who are unable to move about freely. To bend, reach or lift may be difficult or not possible. Yet, these products have worked their way into our normal daily routines and are enablers for people of all abilities.

Aging in Place

For people who want to “Age-in-Place,” Universal Design is a perfect design option to pursue because of the comprehensive features that endure throughout a life span. Although universal design may well share some features associated with barrier-free design, a key distinguishing feature is that universal design is invisible and leaves the house or product looking “normal” or as things “should look.”

See what some clients said about working with Susan:
“We first became aware of Susan Bachner when we toured a remodeled house for which she was the universal design consultant. We were intrigued with the principles of universal design, and when we decided to update our master bathroom, we wanted to utilize these features wherever possible.

We contacted Susan to get more information. At our first meeting, we were impressed with her knowledge, suggestions, and pleasant personality. She was never pushy, but was adamant and advocated those things that provided access and safety. Examples included: a shower entrance without a step or ledge to be more easily shower chair accessible; bathroom doors opening out to provide assistance in the event of a fall against the door; a bathroom phone that could be reached if someone was on the floor; no 90 degree corners on vanity counter tops.

We wanted to continue exploring renovation options and Susan introduced us to an architect and a contractor with whose work she was familiar. After several meetings and more frequent e-mails involving all parties, we decided to expand the master bedroom as well as the master bath. Throughout this process, Susan has been very helpful by reviewing the drawings, asking questions, providing reference materials for us to read, joining us in meetings to select bathroom fixtures, and following though on all our requests and questions. Her attention to detail and responsiveness has helped us enormously.

In summary, Susan Bachner is an intelligent, knowledgeable, and creative consultant in whom we have great confidence and trust.

Margot and Levis McCullers