Flexibility and Technology in Universal Design – Specialist Disability Accommodation Queenie Tran, Operations Manager, Summer Housing

In designing for those with the highest physical support needs, you design for most needs in the community.  At Summer Housing, we’ve applied universal design principles in our design of apartments to cater for people with significant physical impairment and very high support needs so that they can lead ordinary lives. This paper looks beyond Livable Housing Design Guidelines as a universal design standard and how incorporating flexibility in design and supports allow residents to builds individual capacity through smart technology to control their surroundings with the knowledge that help is at hand, if at all required. You wouldn’t know just by looking at these multi-residential buildings that they contain specialist disability accommodation salt-and-peppered throughout.  And we wouldn’t want you to either. Specialist by name; ordinary in use, these apartments are home to individuals who were in residential aged care facilities, or at risk of entering one, years before their time. This paper will examine the flexible design options considered in our apartments to allow residents to live as independently as possible, enhancing their health, wellbeing and participation in the community. By accommodating flexibility from the outset, our housing product recognises that our abilities change over time and that the environment will need to adjust for those changes. The inherent flexibility has allowed for substantial cost reductions when modifications are required, but also improved the liveability of the apartments. We will also discuss the impact of integrated technology solutions to increase choice and control and reduce support needs.  Technology is intrinsic to providing a safe environment for residents and can be considered under the broad banners of home automation, communication systems and safety. Through a case study of the design and function of some of Summer Housing’s apartments, we will explore how we’ve addressed the principles of universal design to provide greater independence, safety and security to those who are usually relegated to aged care homes.