Meet the Experts

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Meet Richard Duncan!

Meet Richard Duncan, Executive Director of the Universal Design Institute! Richard’s affiliation with USC began in the early 1990s when he was on the Advisory Board for our National Resource Center on Housing and Long Term Care, funded by the Administration on Aging. Richard is also an active and long-standing member of the National Home Safety and Home Modification Work Group, facilitated by USC and the National Council on Aging. He contributes to projects and activities related to home modification policy and service delivery.

Tell us about your history in the field of universal design and home modifications.

I am a Planner who has spent nearly 40 years in the field of architectural and product accessibility and universal design in residential, public, and transportation environments. I have extensive experience in accessible and universal design, costs, materials, and products. My work includes the issues of affordable housing and home and repair financing as well as community design for constituencies that include people with disabilities and older adults.

My housing work began with solving problems for families with children with disabilities. I have designed home access solutions, managed projects, and funded hundreds of home access modification projects. I have been educating around this issue since the mid-1980’s, delivering the nation’s first comprehensive trainings for the housing and health care sectors.

  • Produced the nation’s first examination of funding sources for home access modifications.
  • Managed the creation of 2-dozen universal design demonstration homes,
  • Co-developed the Universal Design Summit national conferences, and
  • Created the Better Living Design Institute to promote universal design applied to housing.

What are your special interests in this field?

Funding options for low-income households, financing options for households with more financial resources, alternative housing options for older adults (accessory dwellings, shared housing, duplex/triplex, condominiums, apartments, etc), convincing local jurisdictions that it is their interests to address the housing needs of older adults to avoid service and budgetary problems.

What do you wish people knew about universal design and home modification?

I wish that older adults knew to plan ahead for their housing futures to be able to avoid inevitable person/environment problems that will come in the years ahead, helping themselves avoid injury, hospitalization, expenses, and premature moves to care settings. People should know that adding UD features in homes will work well and look good now and will allow low-cost customizations (accessible and assistive technology) later as individuals develop pronounced health and disability issues.

Where do you see challenges in this field in the next decade?

Getting ahead of the aging demographic, convincing people to include UD features while making standard renovations, getting appraisals correct for homes with UD features, outreach to the public and municipal governments.

What is an accomplishment of which you are most proud?

Creating the RL Mace Universal Design Institute.

To learn more about what we do, visit us at https://www.udinstitute.org/ or email me at

rduncan@udinstitute.org