Flexibility Promotes Independence

Written collaboratively by Leacey E. Brown and Dallas Willman on 7/17/2017.

Many of us put off making accessibility modification to our home until we have a need for more support. We avoid making these modifications for various reasons:

  • Fear of adversely impacting home value
  • Concern about appearance
  • Cost of modifications
  • Lack of knowledge about the options available

As we have learned from other articles in this series, advancements in home design can address many of the concerns home owners have. This article will focus on flexible elements.

What are flexible elements?

Simply the space is designed so that is can be changed with minimal effort and cost. For example, lower cabinets in kitchens can be designed so they can easily be removed to ensure there is enough space to accommodate wheelchair users. In addition, other features can be mechanical to allow for adjustment. For example, countertops that can be raised or lowered.

Examples of flexible elements

  • Modular walls: allows walls to be added or removed as the size or needs of the family change.
  • Adjustable height range/sink: the range or sink can be installed on a mechanical counter allowing it to be moved to the most comfortable height for the person using the appliance.
  • Adjustable height counters: allows for work space that can be adjusted for the user.
  • Upper cabinets that lower: the upper cabinets will come to the user. This is great for people who have trouble reaching height cabinets for various reasons (e.g. shorter people).
  • Design for disassembly: cabinets through the kitchen can be installed so they can be removed easily.

Would you like to learn more about how universal design can help us achieve our aging goals?

Please visit, what is needed for aging in place? to learn more.

To create more flexibility in your home, please consult an interior designer or architect with expertise in universal design.

Additional Readings and References: