Whether it’s a temporary injury from a weekend warrior trip gone wrong, a family member visiting for the holidays or a permanent disability that we are designing for, the kitchen is second only to the bathroom as the most important space that needs to be usable for a variety of abilities.
When thinking about accessibility, we have to consider limited mobility of limbs (i.e. how can something be used with a fist or while using a walker or wheel chair?).
Something to keep in mind is reach length, height of surfaces and usable storage. Often, when in a wheel chair, the lower shelves of cabinets are unusable and cabinet height can be too tall for prep like chopping. Drawers instead of doors are easier to load and unload as well as open and close. Instead of a knob, a magnetic push latch is an easier option to open not only cabinet drawers but also appliances like the refrigerator.
Speaking of the refrigerator, organization is a key feature in any universally designed kitchen, who is reaching into the refrigerator most frequently and what do they need to retrieve? What are the conveniences that would be not only a preference, but a necessity? We need to take into consideration things like the ice maker/water dispenser height or even how large the door is when it swings open.
When there are multiple people using the space (as often there are) it may be most effective to have a lower work space with usable sink that is open underneath and a convenient dishwasher drawer with enough space around it to work while at the sink and open the drawer without obstruction.
Another thing to keep in mind is how someone is able to turn on the faucet, change the temperature and use the disposal. Technology has really improved in recent years and created conveniences that help so much in universal design. Faucets can be motion detecting or touch, and a goose neck faucet makes it easi easier to reach the sprayer than one that is separate from the water supply. The disposal switch can be a push button, a wall switch or a under counter switch that may be most accessible for those with mobility concerns.
Sometimes cabinets vs drawers isn’t the question at all, a magnetic strip for knives or a hanging organizer for spices may work better for prep when height is a concern.
We could talk about different elements of Universal Design all day but we don’t want this post to get too overwhelming. Rest assured that when you call Keystone Consulting for your project, our title Creative Badass fits the bill! We can help you dream up out of the box ideas that can best suit your needs and we have a fabulous team that will get the job done for you!