Universal Design Accessible Kitchen Cabinetry

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

by Scott Anderle PT, CAPS,

This month I would like to talk about accessible kitchen cabinetry and what are some of the considerations and possibilities for its users. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 5 U.S. residents or 19% of the population reported some level of disability in 2005.  So, for over 54 million Americans that have some type of disability, the standard kitchen may pose some challenges as they try to function within that region of the home. The kitchen is the central meeting place for the family and is considered to be one of the most important rooms in your home. With that in mind, one should consider the different possibilities for all who wish or need to use the kitchen region.

To begin with, a standard kitchen may have its upper cabinetry at 52” to 54” above the floor. This height can be difficult for those with a disability. One should consider pulling down some of the upper cabinets closer to the lower countertop level. This allows a short statured individual and those in wheelchairs the ability to have easier access. Minimally, a portion of the upper cabinets may be brought down to 48” above the floor (or lower), thus allowing seated individuals to access the first shelf of the upper cabinetry without difficulty.

As one designs the kitchen, one should think about everyone who will use that environment including able bodied and non-able bodied individuals. The designer should not only think about the pleasing cosmetic look but also the functional flow of the environment while keeping safety in mind for all. When the designer and contractor work together, the kitchen should be both functional and beautiful. A well thought out kitchen may increase the probability that the client may stay in their home longer rather than moving to a facility such as a nursing home. Today there are 77-78 million baby boomers coming down the pike. Many will be looking for that final home that will allow them the freedom to live independently and enjoy their golden years at home.

PassPort Series by KraftMaid

Some kitchen cabinetry manufacturers have cabinetry specifically designed with universal and accessible designed features. One such kitchen cabinetry manufacturer is Kraftmaid. Their Passport Series features kitchen cabinets designed for individuals of all ages and abilities. KraftMaid understands that a barrier-free life is easier, more convenient and more enjoyable.

Other manufacturers offer different types of cabinetry and organizers that will allow easy, barrier-free access. Several items that can make a kitchen more accessible and organized are full extension drawers and shelving, as well as pull-down shelves. These can come in the form of bins, baskets, trays or shelves.
Shown below are just a few of the many options that are available to make your kitchen cabinetry more functional, accessible and user friendly…even if you’re not disabled, in a wheelchair or elderly.

Full extension slide out (pull-out) cabinet organizers are base cabinet pull-outs which allow the items from the rear to be brought to the front to be easily reached. Pull-out shelves for pots and pans can be multi-tiered for extra storage.
You can also make use of “dead space" by installing a pull-out shelf to use for smaller items or to hang up your pots and pans.
Another option for cabinetry is pull-down shelves. These shelves allow a person to reach the upper shelves with ease by pulling the shelves down toward the counter surface. The type shown above demonstrates a manual unit that is pulled down to the counter top level.
Newer technology allows cabinets to automatically raise and lower the upper cabinets to accessible levels with a button or remote. These products will allow use of extra space and give easier access to higher shelves that are out-of-reach. The Approach™ cabinet lift system will move your cabinets down to a standard-height counter or lower.
It's easy to keep the sink cabinet organized and easy to reach using a basket made to fit around the plumbing underneath your sink as shown above. All of your cleaners can be stored together and can be easily accessed with this type of pull-out basket.

Another basket to use for cleaners is the Under Sink Tote by Merillat as shown above, which has a removable basket so you can lift it off and carry your products and supplies with you from room to room.

One may wish to consider a lifiting device such as a spring loaded appliance lift. Convenience in lifting heavy appliances is just a touch away. The Heavy Duty Mixer Lifter (or any small appliance) by Rev-A-Shelf is spring loaded and will gently bring small appliances to counter top height (as shown above).

The appliance lift pictured above from Barrier Free Architecturals is an automatic lift that raises and lowers with the touch of a button. Also pictured are the many different ways to utilized this handy shelf.
So, no matter what your budget or what renovations you are looking for, you can design a beautiful and efficient kitchen that allows more freedom and independence, convenience and have a kitchen that can accommodate the changing abilities of all household members that can last a lifetime.

Shelving shown in this article are from Rev-A-Shelf, Merillat, Populas (formerly AD-AS) and Barrier Free Architecturals. For more information and to see more shelving options, please visit their websites.

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