I am working on a presentation on Aging in Place and Accessibility that I will be doing at the Society of Decorating Professionals Conference in Kansas City in October and it has really made me think about accessibility in general. First, I should define what I mean by “accessibility.” Accessibility is the ability to make something easier to utilize, reach, or use. In this instance, I am referring to simple things that can be done in your own home or maybe in your parents home to make it easier to get around in, more efficient to use and maybe even safer to live in.
When I made some simple changes to this kitchen I included some easy changes like moving the island out to allow more space in the work area and I extended the counter top work area. I installed pullout lazy-susans for a blind cabinet and installed new pull handles making it easier to open the cabinets, even with limited dexterity, should that ever happen. I installed easy care laminate floor that requires no waxing, simple changes making the kitchen much easier to work in.
Did you know that with so many of us getting older in our population, many of us want to stay put in our homes and not move to a retirement home or just plain can’t afford to move. There are many things that can be done to make it easier to stay put. Take a kitchen for example, simple things can be accomplished like installing swing out shelves in our cabinets (big box stores like Lowe’s and Rev-A-Shelf carry items that are easy to install and well worth the investment). How about installing handles that are easier to pull? A pull that is shaped like a U is much easier to grasp with limited dexterity- Amerock has a great selection and can be purchased locally.
Think about your floor- everywhere you look- on TV, in magazines, even showrooms show kitchens with sleek tile or swanky hardwood floors that are really shiny: nice to look at but not nice to fall on and not nice to strip and refinish. A good alternative is to install a floor with a little bit of texture to it as in a tile with texture or better yet, how about an easy care laminate? Are you really going to want to be walking on an extremely hard surface when you are 80? How about sealing that grout when you are 80? Something to think about. Armstrong flooring has some absolutely marvelous laminate floors that look like tile but without the hassles or the slip factor. Watch out for thresholds- they can be extremely dangerous. Thresholds are the transitions or the spaces that are between doorways or between two types of floorings. Every effort should be made to keep these areas as level as possible. Even a small change in level can create a trip hazard. Take extra care when considering a throw rug, they can be extremely dangerous and cause tripping hazards.
Even your faucet can be made easier to use- consider installing a faucet with handles (sometimes called fins). Again, consider limited dexterity. Many of the larger faucet companies will have ADA Compliant listed right on the labels. Look for items listed for ADA Compliance: it isn’t just for those with handicaps, these items are designed for universal accessibility.
As for arrangement of your kitchen, did you know that there are actual suggested guidelines for kitchen arrangements and ways to make your life easier in the kitchen? I really recommend using a professional who has had kitchen and bathroom design training when thinking of making changes to these important rooms. There are some guidelines that should be considered and you can find them listed on the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association) Website.
Small changes can go a long way in making it easier to get around and live with comfort in your own home. Accessible Design doesn’t have to cost a lot and with smart planning, you will be able to live in your home safely and comfortably for many years to come.