Discovering Your Dream Living Room

Kitchens And Physical Disabilities: Why Cabinet Accessibility Is Vital

by Toni Gonzalez

You might not even think about kitchen cabinets in terms of their accessibility—until this issue starts affecting you or a member of your family. When someone's circumstances change and their mobility is decreased, how can you ensure that they're still able to perform a full range of household tasks—including something seemingly as straightforward as opening a kitchen cabinet?

Why Accessibility Is Needed

Kitchen cabinets must be made more accessible when a person's change in mobility makes opening that cabinet (in its original configuration) difficult. This difficulty may lie in the height of the cabinet, the width of the countertop between the cabinet and the user, or even the existing depth of the cabinet. In short, when a person begins to use a wheelchair, a walking frame (or other mobility aid), or develops a condition that limits their physical reach (such as arthritis), then a reconfiguration of the kitchen becomes essential for their continuing use of the space.

Achieving Cabinet Accessibility

Fortunately, achieving kitchen cabinet accessibility involves some modifications as opposed to a complete overhaul. The door of an existing cabinet may still be reachable, and this is an important first step. While a user may be able to open the door of the cabinet, the depth of the space or an encumbrance (like the width of the countertop between them and the cabinet) may prevent the user from accessing the contents of the cabinet. Pull-out shelving is an excellent remedy. Such a cabinet actually has two bases—the primary base of the cabinet, and a drawer slide placed above it. The best drawer slide is ball-bearing enabled, allowing for a full extension of the cabinet space using a simple, fluid motion. Less ongoing maintenance is required than a roller slide (using plastic wheels), and a ball-bearing enabled drawer slide can support more weight.

Cabinet Replacement

Some cabinets may not be reachable at all, and these require replacement. Pull-down shelving is when a cabinet or open shelf is hydraulic-assisted and attached to a wall mount. The shelving has a grab bar, toggle, or other form of grip incorporated into its design. The user grips the shelf, gently pulls downwards, and the cabinet slides down the wall mount (with hydraulic assistance) to a position where it can be opened. Once used, the cabinet can be pushed upwards to its original position.

As mentioned, the good news about making kitchen cabinets accessible for those with reduced mobility is that the space should only require key modifications and not a total rebuild. For more information on kitchen cabinets, contact a professional near you.