Understated Accessibility
Understated Accessibility

Understated Accessibility

It's a common dilemma for designers: Pleasing the clients who are remodeling or building to accommodate small children or aging parents - or even themselves as they age - but don't want to base decisions on accessibility. "Most of my clients who are aging really don't want to talk about it," says Jessica Williamson, an interior designer based in Millburn, N.J. "I have to [make things safe] without telling them."

The good news? Several popular kitchen products offer significant benefits for multigenerational households, even though they may not be marketed that way. Here are a few such products that any client can get excited about.

Make your home ADA accessible

Induction cooktops. The fact that you can touch an induction cooktop without getting burned (it reacts only to magnetic cookware) makes it great for homes with young children or older adults. Roberta Kravette, founder and managing director of Nieuw Amsterdam Kitchens in Manhattan, says she wishes her aging father had one when he was living alone. He tended to lean on the front of the range and turn on the gas by accident or not turn it off completely.

Microwave drawers. It's safer to lift a hot dish from a drawer than to reach for it overhead. The microwave drawer also frees up counter space and is easily accessed by someone in a wheelchair. On the downside, liquids can slosh around when the drawer is opened, something to consider if the client will use the microwave primarily for heating beverages.

Induction cooktops. Microwave drawers.

Refrigerators with bottom-mounted freezers. The refrigerator gets opened an average of 14 times more often than the freezer, says Carm Ricotta, an interior designer based in Brantford, Ontario. Putting the freezer on the bottom raises the refrigerated items nearer to eye level. Kravette likes French-door refrigerators with double-deck freezer drawers, such as those made by LG: "It's easy access for kids. It's also wheelchair accessible," she says.

Pull-down faucets. One benefit offered by the pull-down faucet is that it can fill a pot that's sitting on the counter. That's great for someone who has trouble lifting a pot of water out of the sink. Moen's Edwyn Spot Resist Stainless Spring Pulldown Kitchen Faucet offers flexible water delivery and retracts with ease after use.

Refrigerators with bottom-mounted freezers. Pull-down faucets.

Sinks with varying depths. Deep sinks are not optimal for people with back problems because the user must lean over further to use them. Plus, children like to drop things - or throw them - into the sink. That's why designers recommend two sinks in a multigenerational household, one of which is shallow.

Rollout shelves. Besides making good use of cabinet space, rollout shelves are extremely helpful to someone in a wheelchair, or to someone who has trouble bending - whether an expectant mother or a teen on crutches.

Drawer cabinets. Kravette and Williamson recommend that plates be stored in base cabinets with drawers. "The best thing is to be able to pick up something heavy rather than pull it down," Kravette notes. Drawer storage makes great sense if the kids normally set the table.

Sinks with varying depths. Roll-out shelves.