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The Room-by-Room HomeFit Tour

These design elements and safety features can help make a home livable for everyone

En español | Now it’s time to take the tour (albeit it an imaginary one) for a room-by-room lesson about the design elements and safety features that help make a home livable for people of all ages.

The concepts discussed here are often referred to as Universal Design. Before we get started, you may want to download the worksheet "My Room-by-Room HomeFit List" so you can jot down notes and ideas for your home.

A Message for Renters: Many of these suggestions are doable even if you don’t own the house or apartment where you live. For changes that will require some remodeling or installation work, you may need to seek permission from the property owner.

Start Here! Entrances and Exits             

In a "HomeFit" home …

  • The address number is visible from the street so emergency responders can locate the home
  • Exterior pathways are free of holes, loose bricks, uneven pavement, leaves or other slipping hazards
  • Entrances (inside and out) are free of clutter
  • There is a no-trip doorway threshold
  • There are handrails on both sides of all steps 
  • Doorways are at least 36" wide, or made that wide by installing swing-away or swing-clear hinges to make use of the entire doorway opening
  • There is exterior lighting at all entrances
  • Outdoor light fixtures have sensors to automatically turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn and/or when motion is detected
  • The entry door has a peephole, viewing panel or security system for seeing who is outside
  • The entrance door has a secure slide latch or chain inside so you can speak to someone outside without fully unlocking and opening the door
  • Doors have lever-style handles, which are easier to use than doorknobs
  • There’s a bench or table near the entrance for placing packages while locking or unlocking the door

Now Get Cooking In The Kitchen

In a "HomeFit" home …

  • The cabinetry is easy to access
  • There’s pull-out cabinetry or shelves beneath counters and Lazy Susans in corner cabinets
  • There’s suitable task lighting for the sink, stove and other work areas
  • The kitchen has a lever-, touch- or sensor-style faucet rather than one with turn-style knobs or handles
  • The sink faucet is pressure-balanced, temperature-regulated and kept at or below 120°F
  • Cabinets and drawers have easy-to-grasp D-shaped pulls and handles rather than knobs
  • The floor is not polished with a slippery wax
  • The stove or cooktop controls are near the front of the device so the cook doesn’t need to reach over the flame or hot pots. (For the safety of small children who may visit the home, look for controls that can be temporarily locked or removed.)
  • The controls for the stovetop are easy to see (by being colored, backlit, etc.)
  • The kitchen has a surface where a person can work while seated. (This can be achieved by using a table, installing a pull-out work surface or, sometimes, by removing lower cabinet doors and shelves.)

Then Head to the Steps and Stairways

In a "HomeFit" home …

  • Safe and secure handrails are on both sides of stairs and are placed at a user-appropriate height and properly secured to the walls
  • Stairway lights can be turned on and off at both the top and bottom of the stairs
  • Exterior and interior stair treads are in good condition with no weak or missing steps, loose bricks, raised nail heads, open backs, etc.
  • Uncarpeted steps feature a nonslip surface such as adhesive strips
  • All stairs are clear of clutter
  • Carpeted steps feature a tightly placed, woven low-pile carpet with thin padding. (If the carpet is patterned, the pattern isn’t so busy that it makes the steps difficult to see.)
  • Automatic night-lights are plugged into outlets near steps and staircases

Relax and Recline in the Living Room and Bedroom

In a "HomeFit" home …

  • Furniture is arranged to allow for clear, wide passageways
  • Electrical and phone cords are placed out of the way and along the wall 
  • Light switches are rocker-style and installed between 36" and 44" from the floor, electrical outlets are placed 18" to 24" from the floor
  • The bed is placed in a way that allows easy access to the bathroom
  • Large area rugs are secured to the floor with double-sided tape or nonslip mats (and there are no scatter or throw rugs)
  • Natural light is used by opening curtains, blinds and shades during daylight hours
  • Closets have interior lights and adjustable rods and shelves

Excuse Yourself to Visit the Bathroom

In a "HomeFit" home …

  • The home's water heater has been set at or below 120°F to avoid scalding
  • The toilet is a higher, comfort-height model. (Or maybe there's a toilet seat riser.)
  • Appliances are unplugged when not in use and are never used near a filled sink or tub
  • The sink, bathtub and shower faucets feature easy-to-use lever handles rather than knobs or turn handles
  • The bathroom walls have been reinforced with blocking (e.g. a wood stud or other solid surface) so attractive grab bars can be installed in the tub, shower and adjacent to the toilet
  • Any rugs on the bathroom floor are rubber-backed or secured with double-sided rug tape or rubber carpet mesh
  • The bathtub and/or shower floor has a nonskid mat or nonslip strips
  • The shower has a no-step entry
  • The shower contains permanent or removable seating in order to bathe while seated
  • The shower features a handheld or adjustable showerhead
  • Exposed pipes beneath the sink are insulated to protect against touching a hot pipe

Stay Safe Elsewhere and Throughout the Home

In a "HomeFit" home …

  • The home contains some touch control lamps and devices that automatically turn lights on and off at set times
  • The laundry area features an easier-to-use front-loading washer, and the washer and dryer sit on raised platforms
  • A telephone is available in or near multiple rooms (including the bedroom and bathroom)
  • Automatic plug-in night-lights are placed in hallways, bathrooms and near steps
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed on every floor and can be heard in all bedrooms
  • Toggle light switches have been replaced with easier-to-use rocker panel switches
  • Flashlights are kept in multiple rooms (in case of a power failure)
  • There is at least one step-free entrance into the home

Published February 2015

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