By Mark Eglington
New legislation combined with Canada’s rapidly aging population has developers, manufacturers, and homeowners alike creating products and applications for accessible homes.
Ask any real-estate agent and they tell you that the housing market is booming, in-part because multi-gen families are moving in together, seniors are right-sizing for ease of use and young families are looking for increased safety features and greater maneuverability.
Enter architects and builders who are designing homes that are beautiful and welcoming to individuals, guests, or future buyers, of all abilities. Using universal design principles in these condos and homes makes life easier for everyone living in the house, from small children to seniors who wish to stay in their own homes.
Designers call this “visitability,” a movement to change construction practices so that all new homes offer specific features that make the home easier for people with a range of age and ability-related needs.
Here these are recommendations for the kitchen: Provide open spaces in base cabinets to accommodate wheelchairs, high chairs etc. • Plan ahead and install appliances at accessible levels for everyone. • Consider a wall-mounted oven/microwave at countertop height. • Install faucets to the right or left of the sink instead of behind it and have separate hot and cold taps to avoid confusion. Consider hands-free faucets with motion detectors and a pot faucet at the cooktop.
- Vary counter heights, and include pullout boards that lock in place for use as extra counter space. Make counters continuous for sliding dishes.
- Select and install dishwashers so that they are accessible. Some suggest elevating them or using dishwasher drawers placed on either side of the sink.
- Select non-reflective counter surfaces and appliances with easy-to-read controls to prevent eye strain.
- Pick resilient flooring rather than hard surfaces.
- Allow for great maneuvering space for persons with limited mobility.
- Incorporate more lighting and a place to sit down to prepare.
Many European appliance manufacturers and designers are now providing viable options. For instance, Liebherr under counter units are 32.3” tall to accommodate to lower counter tops (for ADA compliance). And, their freestanding units have assisted opening handles. AEG and Porter and Charles appliances can also be configured to facilitate many accessibility requirements.
Adapted from Liebherr FreshMAG. For more information about accessible kitchens visit CMHC.ca.
For over 15 years, Mark Eglington has been passionate about European-manufactured best-in-class appliances. By day, he is the President of Canadian-owned Euro-Line Appliances; by night he’s perfecting his cooking skills.