Friday, January 16, 2009

Universal Design: Malia & Sasha Obama

Malia and Sasha Obama are in the White House (almost) and one of the places they will be making friends is in the kitchen. There will be no shortage of staff ready to serve up a hot coco and a fresh baked cookie. And, much to their delight, there won’t be any shopping, prepping, cooking or cleaning. That certainly would be a dream for me!

Kids in the kitchen benefit from universal design as much as those managing physical limitations due to age and disability. Attention turns to what is necessary so that they can function in the kitchen as successfully as adults. These days kids are more autonomous and many not only satisfy their hunger in the kitchen, they fulfill a share of the family chores.

One first considers safety. For an older adult, diminishing strength alters the landscape of what is possible; for a child it is the increase in strength, height and ambition. Cooking as novices brings risks of burns. Controls on the front of a stove reduce reaching over or around hot pots. Visual indicators tell a child if a burner is on or still hot.

Another consideration is the flow of traffic - both theirs and yours. They need a snack while you are cooking; if snacks are near the stove, a collision is inevitable. Put things in easy to reach locations according to task or need. In this case, keep kids away from busy work-stations especially the stove and oven. If you have a breakfast nook, make that the kid’s area. Not only is the table height better suited to their stature, they will have a nice place in the kitchen to do their thing and be out of your way. This might include helping you with food prep, snacking, homework, or messy arts and crafts.

Finally, consider having a footstool. Clever designs are on wheels allowing easy maneuverability with the push of a toe but which become a stationary once stood on. These give the kids the extra height to work safely, help you reach higher storage areas, and provide a footrest while working in a standing position.

For more kitchen tips, go to Universal Design Resource. While there, please take a few minutes to complete the survey.

Konrad Kaletsch
January 16, 2009

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