Universal accessibility in architecture refers to the capacity that all people have to access and inhabit a space regardless of their cognitive and physical capacities, and it is a subject that cannot be dismissed. Although little modifications can make a difference, it is ideal for the spaces to be thought out according to universal design guidelines from the beginning.
In the case of the kitchens, a series of new technologies that increase the comfort and efficiency of our daily spaces have made an appearance. Thus, multiplying its functions and allowing better use of the available surface. Let's take a look at the latest innovations presented by Häfele.
Although each country has its own detailed rules about this subject, there are minimum measures we should respect to ensure accessibility in our kitchens. To allow free access and movement of a wheelchair, for example, the areas of circulation must have a minimum width of 80 cm with an optimal width approaching 120 cm. Objects and utensils must be at the direct reach of users, incorporating handles or opening systems easy to use, like faucets with levers instead of valves (gerontological taps in extreme cases). The main lighting must be stable and uniform; mixing natural and artificial light if possible, plus the addition of directed light bulbs in specific zones while installing programmable automated systems and movement sensors would be ideal. The installation of anti-skit floors and choosing safe, easy to clean and antibacterial materials is also advised.
With a movement range of 67 cm, the Vitaflex system is made for its height to be adjusted according to each user’s needs. Incorporating elevation columns that can stand up to 60 kg of weight, the countertop considers the movement of artifacts like the stove or the dishwasher, allowing effective freedom throughout that space as a whole.
The extensible tables make it possible to increase the useful and habitable space of the kitchen, also easing the access for people in wheelchairs. From perfectly hidden in a drawer, Some of them can get attached and adjusted to the height of the countertop, while others unfold into dining room tables.
It is also possible to incorporate cabinets that are closer within the reach of the user with just a simple movement and/or with a switch or button. One option for this could be to install it as a structure screwed to the wall, allowing the cabinet to move diagonally, downwards and upwards. Another option is using columns of elevation that move the cabinet only in a vertical fashion.
Although they are generally used for keeping cutlery and kitchen utensils, it is important to consider sliding drawers in the lower furniture. This way, avoiding the design of fixed cabinets that are too deep and difficult to reach.
It is possible to eliminate doors with hinges of upper furniture and replace them with lift doors, which gives easy access to the artifacts and utensils while using the kitchen. This system also helps to clear the area, allowing free movement without the need to close the cabinets.
The integration of all these technologies allows the construction of multifunctional kitchens that are capable of adapting and adjusting to the needs of different users while diversifying functions in a small space. In addition to the versatility given by electronic systems that control the movement of cabinets and tables in different directions and heights, there is also the potential to program predetermined configurations that increase the users’ quality of life even further; giving the capacity to customize breakfast tables, workspaces, storage rooms, among many others.