Purple Tuesday – A Designer’s Perspective

Make shopping easier, yes! But what about storage space at home?

We’ve enjoyed reading about Purple Tuesday, and seeing issues around accessibility in our towns and shopping spaces discussed and debated in the press. Purple Tuesday shines a light, albeit briefly, on the needs of the UK’s estimated 11 million disabled people who would like to participate in the day to day activities that many take for granted.

If nearly 17% of the population struggles to contend with poorly planned towns, web sites and shopping spaces, then towns and businesses are not only disenfranchising a large sector of the community, but also making it harder for people to spend their money.

Of course, making shopping more accessible is an important goal. And this leads us to the point that is always on the mind of a specialist designer.

If shopping takes more effort, planning and energy, disabled and older people are likely to shop less often, so more storage space is required at home.

Many older and disabled people are given support to bathe and dress each day, but there is still a funding struggle over kitchens. If you were only able to shop once every week or 10 days, how much cabinet and fridge space would you need?

The Issues

  • When designing for home adaptations, we must take into account circulating space for a wheelchair or walking aid. This leads to a requirement for more expansive open-plan designs.
  • Removing walls in a home, reduces the potential for shelving and cupboards.
  • In order to create large knee spaces (above), fewer base units can be included in designs.
  • Standard wall units are often out of reach from a seated position.

By creating larger, fluid spaces and knee spaces, we are often creating fewer opportunities for storage. Disabled and older people still need to store crockery, general ingredients and cookware. And they probably need more storage space for tins and dried goods than most, plus a larger fridge to keep fresh food in good condition for longer.

The Solutions

  • Specify midi-height units (shown in the image at the top of this post) instead of tall units, so that all areas of the cabinets are within reach of the client.
  • Specify a larder style fridge, with pull-out shelves like the Neff model shown in the video above.
  • Set wall units lower (keeping them well away from the hob!) so that the lower shelves can be accessed.
  • Consider using pulldown baskets in wall units to make them accessible, as seen in this video.
  • Consider using a hydraulic rise and fall motor on a large wall unit to bring it within reach as shown in the images from this project.
  • Specify the larder units shown in the two video links on this page to improve access.

As always, the solution comes down to extra money. Extra funding for the kitchen space in an architect’s plans, and extra funding for the amount of storage space each client really needs. As part of a larger project, a few additional cabinets are a modest cost over the 20+ years life of a top quality accessible kitchen. Get it right first time by engaging an experienced designer very early in the process, and the end user will enjoy decades of purposeful occupation and socialising with family and friends.

In the meantime, Purple Tuesday is a good initiative that acknowledges the needs of a large part of our society. Let’s hope it generates enough debate to keep the real issues uppermost in our minds for longer.

Want to know more about Europe’s finest accessible kitchens? Visit our downloads page for more information, and call us on 01628 531584 for a free consultation.