Universal Design is an excellent concept because it suits everyone – those that are old and young, as well as individuals across the spectrum of physical mobility and capability levels. The degree of safety and accessibility of Universal Design elements, combined with attractive and customizable styles and finishes, make it easy to understand its categorical integration into remodels and new construction alike. As Universal Design becomes more widespread, specific trends are coming to light, especially in high-use areas like the kitchen.
Universal Design For the Kitchen
Though we do not yet have the conveniences found in futuristic kitchen of The Jetsons (such as robotic domestic help, space-age vending machines), advances in kitchen technology and design are helping to make using this room – and all we do in it – easier and more intuitive. Universal design elements like lighting, hardware, and appliances make the space safer and more accessible for all.
Countertops positioned at various heights can make a kitchen easily usable for a chef of any age, whether young or old. A lower countertop and sink can make it easier for young children to use without the need for a stepping stool. Adjustable height countertops are also convenient – this style of countertop can be raised and lowered based on the user.
One way to easily add accessibility to the kitchen is with a simple choice in appliances. Dishwashers and refrigerators, which once came only in standard sizes are now available in smaller sizes which can be built into drawer spaces, allowing easy access for users. Dishwashers are made in drawer-size, which offers several benefits: smaller loads are more efficient; drawer-size is easier to load; it can be installed at various heights based on user needs; and height customization allows for reduced physical stress on user (less need to bend down). Freezer drawers are generally more convenient and energy efficient than the standard style.
Many options exist for customizing a cooktop, including the installation of an induction range. Energy efficient and with a reputation for being both powerful and precise, the induction range, which relies on an electromagnet to heat iron or steel cookware, offers the added benefit of improved safety compared to conventional models. Because induction stoves don’t feature open flames, the surface remains relatively neutral in temperature during cooking. Because the cook top is shallow compared to other options, it creates space for access when using walking aids. A pot-filler is another great safety add-on near the stove: positioned over the cook top, it eliminates the need to carry heavy pots from the sink.
Storage and Hardware:
Storage and hardware are the easiest – and most cost-effective – ways to increase a kitchen’s accessibility. Simply installing roll-out shelves or drawers in the pre-existing space makes it easier to access items stored in cabinets. A lazy Susan installed within a corner shelf space or on a cabinet shelf make cabinet contents easier to reach in the kitchen; in addition, glass doors let the users see what’s inside each cabinet – no more wasting time guessing! Hands-free or touch-activated faucets offer ease of use, while over-sized hardware makes appliances and cabinets easy to open.