National Experts on Universal Design to Open Fairfax County

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Two nationally renowned experts on using universal design to make homes accessible, safe, comfortable, and attractive as people grow older or experience changes in physical abilities are slated to open Fairfax County’s Reinventing Your Home event on Saturday, November 22. The public is invited to attend this free event at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The remainder of the morning will feature workshops on practical applications of universal design that range from large remodeling projects to minor and inexpensive upgrades (installing “D” shaped handles and improving lighting) and repairs. There will also be workshops on finding and paying for contractors, helpful home-based technology, tips on de-cluttering and designing “easy to enjoy” gardens.

Richard Duncan and Leon Harper, both project directors and advocates, open the event by demonstrating how universal design not only allows older people to “age in place” but also enables people of all ages to open their doors to friends and family members for whom standard entry ways, bathrooms and kitchens often present barriers.

While architects and advocates in the fields of aging and disability have been discussing universal design for over 20 years, the concept has only recently gained traction with a wider public.

“We expect universal design to catch on the way “green design” is just now catching on,” said Grace Starbird, director of the Department of Family Services’ Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, a leading sponsor of the event. “Our hope is that Reinventing Your Home will ignite an important conversation and lead people to ask for universal design when remodeling or upgrading their homes,” she added.

Mr. Duncan is the executive director of Housing Works-Universal Design Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has 25 years’ experience in residential, public, and transportation projects using universal design. He is extensively published and lectures nationally and internationally to universities and government agencies on the subject.

Mr. Harper is president of Leon Harper and Associates, Inc., Housing Consultants. He was president of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, deputy director for the 1981 White House Conference on Aging, and a housing specialist at AARP. Mr. Harper has directed a number of universal design demonstration house projects including a project in Richmond, Virginia, that was featured on NBC’s “Today Show,” a project with the M.I.T. School of Architecture, and a recent project with Prince William County and Centex Homes.

Because of anticipated demand, pre-registration is required to attend this free event. To register and/or request ADA reasonable accommodations contact:, or call 703-324-7746, TTY 703-449-1186.

The event is sponsored by Fairfax County’s Department of Family Services’ Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, the Building for All Committee and AARP.

Reinventing Your Home follows Reinventing Your Neighborhood, an event held last April that focused on developing neighborhood-based service networks. Both events align with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ 50+ Plan “to ensure a more aging friendly Fairfax County.” The plan, adopted in October 2007, can be found at

Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all county programs, services and activities. To request this information in an alternate format, call Department of Family Services’ Fairfax Area Agency on Aging at 703-324-5411, TTY 703-449-1186.


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