If you're a person with disabilities or live with someone who is disabled, you know that making a home accessible goes a lot further than installing wheelchair ramps. A disability doesn't prevent a person from wanting to do as much as the can for themselves and perform daily tasks that they enjoy, like preparing and cooking food. However, the kitchen can be a tricky place for a person with disabilities for several reasons, and it may take some work to make the kitchen as accessible as it needs to be. Kitchen cabinet design is a big part of that. Most of the things that you need to reach to make food are stored in drawers and cabinets, after all. Take a look at some kitchen cabinet design tips that you will need when creating an accessible kitchen.
Say Goodbye to Knobs
Picking out the knobs for your kitchen cabinets is one of the fun parts—there are plenty of great designs to choose from. However, for people with disabilities, it can be hard to find any knob that's really a good choice. A person with arthritis in their hands might find knobs hard to reach. Someone who relies on a hooked aid or a reacher tool will find that these are unhelpful for gripping knobs. Luckily, there are a few other options. For example, you may want to consider pulls instead of knobs. Like knobs, pulls come in a variety of styles, so you can certainly choose which ones complement your style best. However, they're also more suited for people who might have difficulty with knobs. A hooked assistive tool could easily be used to grab a handle, bar, or bail pull. A person could also put their hand through the opening of these handles and pull without the need to grasp. Or, with a finger pull, they might only need to extend a few fingers.
If none of the pulls seem like the right answer, then the key may be in the hinges. You could forego knobs and pulls completely and instead install touch-to-open hinges. These hinges allow the door to spring open with a touch or light push on the outside of the cabinet door. They can be very helpful for people with disabilities.
Consider Unusual Heights
Kitchen cabinet usually have two positions—some are positioned high enough to be easily opened by an adult in a standing position, and others are positioned at floor level. When designing cabinets for someone with disabilities, you will want to consider less typical positioning. A person in a wheelchair, for example, will have trouble with both of the typical heights; they will not be able to get low enough to get things out of the cabinets at floor level, nor will they be able to stand to get things out of the cabinets at the higher level. In other cases, a person with disabilities might be able to stand but not bend down far enough to reach the floor-level cabinets. Either way, the solution is to move the cabinets up or down to accommodate the person with disabilities.
If you have the money, you may want to consider electric-powered adjustable cabinets. These are installed on tracks and can be raised and lowered simply by pushing a button. In a home in which one person has disabilities and another does not, this may be the most convenient choice for everyone.
Look for Easy Ways to Find Items Inside Cabinets
No matter how easy it is to reach and open the cabinet, the cabinet won't do you much good if you can't reach far enough into it to get the thing that you need. Putting away dishes and utensils is also difficult when you can only reach the front of the cabinet. However, you might want to consider installing cabinets that contain pullout shelves. This way, you can pull the shelf out and easily reach what you want; this makes putting items away easier as well.
Other adjustments that can help make it easier to find and reach things inside the cabinets include hooks on the door. These allow you to hang commonly used utensils inside the door for easy access. It also helps to use cabinet organizers and drawer dividers—the more organized the space is, the easier it will be to navigate.
If you or someone you live with is disabled, be sure to talk to your contractor frankly about your needs when planning a kitchen cabinet remodel. Your contractor can help you decide which features will make your kitchen as accessible as you need it to be.