As a society and culture, we have come a long way since the days when people had to fight just to get curbs lowered and stores and restaurants to install wheelchair-accessible entryways. Today, no one even thinks twice about leaving disabled-designated parking spots available for those who need them, because people know it’s the right thing to do.
Yet even in this age of heightened awareness, few able-bodied people understand what it’s really like to live an ordinary day with a mobility-limiting condition. Simply getting out of bed and getting dressed in the morning is a challenge, particularly for those who live in a space that has had few, or no, modifications. The standard-designed home simply does not accommodate many of the daily living challenges that people with mobility issues face.
That’s why we thought it would be fitting to talk about the wheelchair accessible closet. Just imagine how difficult it would be to try to reach a shirt hanging from a standard-height closet rod when sitting in a wheelchair. Fortunately, making changes to an existing closet to render it more wheelchair-friendly isn’t as hard and probably not as expensive as you might first think. The designers at Tailored Living are pros at creating flexible closet solutions, and our proprietary 3D design software, D’Vinci, lets clients see their potential wheelchair-accessible closet in three dimensions before it is even built. Whether your closet is walk-in or reach-in, we are full of ideas as well as the hardware and accessories to bring those ideas to life in your home. Here we will share a few of our best tips for planning your wheelchair accessible closet:
1) Enlist the perspective of someone who uses a wheelchair for day-to-day living. The best design advice you’ll ever get is that which comes from a person who has had firsthand experience navigating a closet from a wheelchair. You’ll undoubtedly hear things that you might not have read on the Internet or seen in design magazines.
2) When calculating where to place rods, drawers, shelves, etc., consider not only the distance of the seat of the wheelchair from the floor, but also the distance from the floor to the height of the person when he or she is sitting in the wheelchair. The idea is to strive for personal comfort and avoid strain on muscles, joints, etc. Therefore, a child in a wheelchair will need a closet rod positioned much closer to the floor than, say, a six-foot tall, fully grown man. There is no “one size fits all” for anyone, and that includes people in wheelchairs.
3) Always keep maneuverability in mind when planning your design. For a wheelchair accessible walk-in closet, a wheelchair must have enough room to roll in and turn around comfortably without hitting walls, drawers or anything that sticks out of the wall, like hooks or rods. If placing drawers inside the closet, the person must be able to access them easily, preferably from the side. Accessing drawers from head on is difficult because the person will have to reach over his or her lap first. Often this means that the deepest parts of the drawer will become inaccessible. Side-reach makes it easier to access the entire drawer, as long as there is enough room to maneuver the wheelchair in the same space. For drawers in a reach-in closet, the person must have enough room to maneuver the wheelchair within the room and still be able to access the drawers from the side. Also, remember that it’s not just high drawers that are difficult for a person in a wheelchair to reach, but low ones too.
4) Install sliding doors instead of conventional hinged doors. This eliminates any need for door clearance space, leaving more room for a wheelchair to maneuver.
5) Make sure flooring inside the closet is wheelchair-friendly. That means either a smooth, non-slip finish, or, if carpet, one with a low pile.
6) Use reach-tools to help maximize all of the space inside the closet. If you were only able to place hardware like hanging rods at wheelchair height, you would miss out on using all of the space above that. Fortunately, there are practical tricks and tools that someone in a wheelchair can use to access items that are out of his or her usual reach so that all space can be utilized. One such handy piece of hardware that Tailored Living installs in all kinds of closets (not just wheelchair accessible ones) is the pull-down rod, which is pulled down when access is needed, and pushed up against the wall when not in use. A garment hook (basically a long metal stick with a hook at the end) is a must for reaching hanging clothes that are otherwise out of reach, and can also be used to access a pull-down rod.
7) For shoe storage, tilted shoe shelves sit at an incline with the lowest point at the front of the shelf. This allows an unobstructed view of what is on the shelf, even high ones.
8) Install a built-in ironing board at wheelchair height. The board slides away when not in use.
9) Install pull out belt racks, tie racks and pants racks. They can be both excellent space-savers and practical accessories for making clothing easier to access from a wheelchair.
These are just a few ideas. For a personalized wheelchair accessible closet solution with your own customized design, contact us for a free, on-site consultation.
Do you use a wheelchair, or do you live with someone who does? If so, you are the true expert. What design suggestions and ideas would you offer? What has and hasn’t worked for you in the past? Share your tips on our “leave a comment page,” or on our Tailored Living Coquitlam Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/tailoredliving.coquitlam/