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.

Benefits of Universal Design

View our infographic to learn about some common misconceptions concerning Universal Design.

Follow these principles for each area of the home to ensure current and future accessibility for residents.

Throughout the home

  • Allow space for wheelchairs and walkers to move freely.
  • Install lever-style door handles and faucets.
  • Use non-slip flooring.
  • Install smooth, low thresholds.
  • Include good, non-glare lighting.
  • Install windows with low sills.
  • Insulate exposed pipes.


  • Position the entry near parking.
  • Use ramps and landings, or well-designed steps.
  • Install a bench or ledge to set things down while opening the door.
  • Add a covered sitting porch, canopy or overhang.

Living room and dining room

  • Design the space for a range of activities, such as watching television, reading, entertaining, playing table games and dining.
  • Allow for flexible furniture layouts.
  • Make the most of natural light and outdoor views.


  • Install removable lower cupboards.
  • Use adjustable-height counters with rounded corners.
  • Place cabinets, appliances, switches and outlets within easy reach.
  • Create adjustable storage and place short-term storage between knee and shoulder heights.
  • Use colour contrast on outlets, cabinets and counters.
  • Install hands-free faucets.

For more details, see our guide to accessible design in the kitchen (PDF).

For information on fridges, ovens, cooktops and more, see our guide to accessible design for appliances (PDF).


  • Design the space for varied uses, such as crafts, hobbies and reading.
  • Provide bedside storage.
  • Place controls for lights, television and telephone within reach of the bed.


  • Locate the full bathroom on the ground floor.
  • Install an adjustable-height vanity and removable lower cabinets.
  • Use a step-in tub with a seat and a roll-in shower with an adjustable-height showerhead.
  • Install temperature-limiting controls and make them accessible from both inside and outside the tub and shower.
  • Reinforce walls to support grab bars.
  • Add a closet or cabinets that can be used later to expand the room.

For detailed information, see our guide to accessible design for bathrooms (PDF).

Storage spaces

  • Leave space to store wheelchairs, walkers and electric scooters.
  • Provide a place to recharge scooter batteries.
  • Avoid high or very low shelving.
  • Ensure any storage area outside of the unit is lockable.

Laundry room

  • Locate laundry areas on the same floor as the living area.
  • Put switches and plugs within easy reach.
  • Install front-loading machines.

For more about washing machines and dryers, see our guide to accessible design for appliances (PDF).

Patio and balcony

  • Ensure a wheelchair can fit through the doorway.
  • Plan for a minimum depth of 1.8 m (6 ft.).
  • Add lighting and an electrical outlet.
  • Use a railing that doesn’t block the view while seated.
  • Ensure doors are secure.
Date Published:: May 15, 2019