Kitchen Remodeling with Universal Design
Designing kitchens that meet the needs of as many users as possible regardless of age and physical attributes such as height or ability is part of an emerging trend called universal design. This relatively new design trend embraces products that are accessible, comfortable, easy to use and safer.
I am 5 feet tall and the cabinets in my conventional kitchen are barely within my reach. The Universal Design solution would be to modify or purchase new cabinets that have a built in pull down mechanism that will bring the shelves down to me and back up when I’m done.
Roll out shelves make reaching items in the back of kitchen cabinets easier by bringing them forward. My new refrigerator uses that same concept and it does make accessing the food items so easy. In the past I would have to move lots of items out of the way before I could get to what I wanted. Now I just roll out the shelf, reach for the item, take it out, roll the shelf back and done.
A raised dishwasher or drawer dishwasher, another universal kitchen design solution, would be a welcome sight for those who have limited mobility and are unable to bend as would be required for conventional dishwashers.
A microwave placed at a lower height than the conventional above the range position will not only make accessing and using it easier for those who are not tall enough, wheelchair bound or suffering from arthritis but it will be safer when removing heavy (and often very hot) dishes.
Lower counter tops provide a work surface for those who are unable to stand for long periods of time such as is necessary when preparing some meals. The lower surface enables those in wheel chairs or those who need to be seated the freedom and comfort to work on the meal preparation or even to pay bills.
Stove top controls placed at the front of the range make cooking easier and safer for those who are unable to reach back placed controls. At first I was a bit concerned about this universal design solution – I worried about possible injury to children. I later learned that most stove/range front based controls have safety mechanisms that will prevent children from accidentally turning on the range or stove.
Flooring should be a non-skid material to prevent injury. The recommended flooring material is cork. It is a sustainable natural product that lends itself beautifully to Green design. Cork has wonderful shock absorbing qualities. To me it feels like walking on clouds – that soft. Those with joint or orthopedic injuries will certainly appreciate having cork underfoot.
D shaped cabinet hardware is a smart universal design solution which will make opening cabinet doors easier for those suffering from arthritis while still being a very easy to use opening mechanism for the rest of the household.
Keep counter corners rounded – same goes for table corners. This universal design solution takes into account the reality of children running and playing in the kitchen as well as the every day possibility that adults can trip and fall and sustain injuries. The rounded corners in effect help minimize injuries to all those who use the kitchen.
Remote control devices to operate window treatments, lighting and fans. This takes the reach, stretch and possible injury out of the equation. Remote operation are perfect for all kitchen users whether it’s the wheelchair bound grandfather, the arthritic mom who can no longer use her hands to adjust the blinds or the 5 foot tall decorator who has to reach for the step ladder to operate the ceiling fan. The remote works for everyone and that’s what makes it a smart universal design solution.
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