Designing accessible kitchen storage areas. By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Editor’s Note: After a 1998 spinal cord injury left Rosemarie Rossetti paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair, she and her husband, Mark Leder, needed to build a new home to accommodate her newly compromised mobility. They worked with the design team and were the general contractors, and founded the Universal Design Living Laboratory in Columbus, Ohio, where they’ve been living since 2012. It is the top-rated universal design home in North America with three national universal design certifications. In this article, part of a series in which she describes the journey and employing universal design/Living in Place features in the house they built, she discusses kitchen storage.
Accessible Design to Accommodate People in Wheelchairs
As a person who uses a manual wheelchair, I am keenly aware of the considerations that were taken into account during the design of our home. Our national design team included architect Patrick Manley, interior designers Anna Lyon and Mary Jo Peterson, CMKBD, and the interior designers from Kohler and KraftMaid. The kitchen is fully accessible to me and my husband, despite our significant differences in height: Mark is 6 feet, 4 inches tall while I am 4 feet, 2 inches seated in my wheelchair.
A guideline to design accessible storage is that 50% should be reachable from a seated position. Keep in mind that a person in a wheelchair has a limited reach. Generally, plan for storage to be 18 to 48 inches from the floor, so the items are reachable from a seated position. Cabinets with pull-out drawers and shelves position stored items at a more accessible reach.
There are many pull-down shelf hardware units on the market. These units enable a person to pull down the contents on high shelves so they are reachable for a shorter person and a person in a wheelchair. We have two of these units in our kitchen.
The perimeter countertop by the sink and cooktop in my home is 34 inches high. This is 2 inches lower than standard-height cabinets. The wall cabinets are 14 inches above the countertop, which is 4 inches lower than standard-height wall cabinets. This positions the shelves in the wall cabinets 6 inches lower than in a traditionally designed kitchen. It’s an advantage for people who are short or seated, yet poses no problem for tall people.
Universal Design Features for Convenience
To create accessible storage in the kitchen, consider installing large, deep drawers in base cabinets instead of shelves. The two deep drawers under the perimeter countertop near the cooktop are very convenient to access the dishes, pots, pans, lids and skillets that are stored in them. My drawers are 31 inches wide, 20 inches long and 6 inches deep. The hardware specified supports weight and allows them to glide easily.
There are two pull-out units to store spices on either side of the cooktop. Each unit has two shelves that are 6-1/2 inches wide by 24 inches deep. To the left of the refrigerator is a pull-out cabinet that’s 20 inches deep, with four adjustable shelves that are 5 inches wide. The distance from the floor to the tallest shelf is 48 inches.
There is a drawer under the dishwasher and two drawers under the microwave. There are three drawers in the base cabinet to the right of the sink. To the right of the dishwasher, a deep cabinet is 21 inches wide, 84 inches high and 23 inches deep. It contains four pull-out adjustable shelves.
Center Island Storage
Our multiple-height center island provides storage and counter space. There are two 26 inch-wide, 21 inch-deep adjustable pull-out shelves under the island. There is a deep appliance garage on one end of the island that’s 21 inches wide, 18 inches high and 24 inches deep.
The 14 ½ foot-long pantry is adjacent to the kitchen in our home. There is a 66 inch-wide by 84 inch-high cabinet with 4 ½ inch-deep adjustable shelves. The bottom of the cabinet has four doors while the top shelves are open. The shelves are perfect for storing food in cans and boxes. Since the shelves are shallow, all the food is easily visible.
The bottom of the wall cabinets is 14 inches above the countertop, as in the kitchen.
A deep mobile serving/storage cart, 30 inches wide by 34 inches high by 24 inches deep, was designed to fit under the counter. There are two shelves on this cart.
There is an 18 inch-wide by 84 inch-high by 24 inch-deep pull-out unit in the pantry that has shelves and hooks for hanging cleaning supplies.
Kitchen appliances and pans are stored in a 36 inch-wide, 30-inch deep closet that’s 4 ½ feet high. Six customized roll-out shelves were designed and installed by ShelfGenie.
Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D., CLIPP, is an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of the Universal Design Toolkit. The Universal Design Living Laboratory, located in Columbus, Ohio, is the top-rated universal design home in North America with three national universal design certifications. To purchase the Universal Design Toolkit at a 50% discount, or get a free chapter, take a virtual tour, and learn more about her national demonstration home and garden, the Universal Design Living Laboratory, visit www.udll.comTo contact Rosemarie and learn about her speaking, training, and consulting services, go to www.RosemarieSpeaks.com.
To apply for Certified Living In Place Professional (CLIPP) certification, click here. (NKBA members get a discount.)