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Universal Design is a set of design principles intended to make your home and features of your home accessible to anyone, regardless of age, size or ability. It originated to accommodate people who use assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers, and also older adults who might have more difficulty reaching certain features or navigating around a home due to arthritis or limitations of sight, for example. Here are 8 ways you can incorporate Universal Design principles into your kitchen.
1. Plenty of light – Natural light is best so if possible, include a large window or two in your kitchen design. Adding a skylight can also help bring more natural light into your kitchen. For the non-daylight hours, make sure you have plenty of task lighting above areas for cleaning, prepping and cooking, such as the stove, the sink and prep counters. As people age, their eyes require more light to see well–some experts estimate that older adults need as much as 10% more lighting for every decade of life over 40 years old. Using adjustable lighting will help make it comfortable for those of all ages.
2. Faucet style matters – Choose either a single lever faucet that can be turned on and off with either an open hand or closed fist that is easier for both young hands or older hands with arthritis or choose a touch-operated faucet. These options make it easier for anyone to use the kitchen sink.
3. Check the flooring – Use slip-resistant flooring options to help minimize slip and fall hazards. It’s also important to have seamless flooring when moving from room to room with no raised thresholds that can impede wheelchairs or walkers.
4. Measure spacing – Make sure you have 42 to 48 inches of clearance space between and around objects such as kitchen islands and tables. This is the average space required for those using assistive mobile devices such as walkers or wheelchairs.
5. Opt for open shelving – Open shelving allows you to see items and access items without being hindered by cabinetry. When reaching up for an item is difficult, open shelving can make it much easier to find what you need when you need it. If open shelving isn’t for you, clear glass-front cabinets are a good alternative.
6. Pull-out shelves and storage – For lower cabinets, pull out shelving can also help you find and access what you need easier and with less bending and physical stress. Alternately, large drawers with adjustable pegs for things like dishware and pots and pans can reduce the strain of bending for long periods to locate needed items.
7. Relocate the microwave – Relocating the microwave from above the stove/range and instead mounting into the kitchen island or lower cabinetry makes using this appliance much easier for everyone.
8. Choose the right hardware – Choose hardware for your cabinet doors and drawers that is larger and easier to grasp. Large D-shaped pulls are generally easy for people of all ages and abilities to use.
These 8 Universal Design principles are just the tip of the iceberg. Universal Design principles are being used in new constructions and even many apartments and rentals. The great thing about Universal Design is that it’s meant to make things easier for people of all ages, heights/sizes and ability levels. That means everyone in your family and also guests will feel more comfortable using your kitchen.