After Rosemarie Rossetti became paralyzed in 1998, she encountered significant barriers in navigating the old two-story home she shared with her husband Mark Leder. These struggles sparked a 10-year effort in persuading sponsors to partner with the couple to build a home that would become a living laboratory for the concepts of universal design.
They’ve spent two years living in this innovative dwelling and in November the general public is invited to view the home. Using the home to educate the public on universal design is very important to Rossetti. “The term universal design means nothing to them but when they leave here after about two hours they are absolutely rapid fans,” she says. “They’re seeing the need for a good house to stay in for the rest of their lives.”
During the tour, visitors are able to see the subtlety of universal design such as lowered mirrors, raised dishwasher and variable counter heights. The highlight of the house is the combination master bedroom closet and laundry room. “That room gets the most comments of any because it makes sense to have your washer and dryer, ironing and handwashing in the same room that you store your clothes,” she says.
Once the visitors leave, the home will continue to bring attention to universal design. Tours will continue to be given by appointment only. Rossetti says they hope to consult on product design with some of their 217 sponsors. They are also reaching out to building and design communities to plan more user-friendly apartments, condos and multi and single family housing.
Rossetti has advice for those who are looking to make their home more accessible. “Often times it’s more cost effective to put the money in your own home rather than build again,“ she says. It’s important to find a contractor who understands universal design. “We need somebody that has the whole understanding of universal design not just oh I can make that bathroom bigger and I can put in some grab bars for you,” she says. Rossetti suggests that people interview many contractors and get testimonials from people who have used them. She also advises people to inquire about certifications their contractors may have like the Certified Aging in Place Specialist designation from the National Association of Homebuilders.