As we talk about universal design and modifying our homes so that everyone in the family is comfortable and able to retain their independence, let’s not forget to take a look at our closets.
Closet rods are normally set at about 66" off the floor so if you’re of average height or taller, you’ll have no problem reaching them. But what if you were a child or in a wheelchair? Could you reach that rod? In fact, closet rods set at 20-44” off the floor are better suited for everyone. You can either lower existing rods, install additional rods at a lower height, or install add-on rods. An add-on rod hooks on to an existing closet rod but hangs at a lower height. The advantage of an add-on rod is that is can be easily removed should your needs change or you move.
For a more permanent solution you can install a pull or swing down rod. This rod is installed at the traditional 66” off the floor height but with the push of a button or by pulling a cord, the rod swings down to your level. For maximum utilization of closet space, install a swing down rod at the same height as your current closet rod then re-install the existing rod at a lower height.
There are also numerous closet organizing systems that offer storage options at all height levels. You can choose either drawers or wire baskets to make storing certain items of clothing or accessories easier. Make higher drawers shallow. Lower drawers can be deeper. If you choose wooden drawers, use d-shaped or u-shaped handles that are easy to grip. If someone in your home uses a wheelchair, keep the drawers no more than 30” off the floor. Also plan on adding some low, shallow shelves to your closet. Shelves should be no more than 18” deep to prevent items from getting pushed to the back of the shelf and out of view.
Make sure your closet is well lit. Get rid of that old ceiling light with a pull switch. You can even install lights that turn on automatically when the closet door is opened. And speaking of doors, make sure the closet doorway is at least 36” wide. For easy of entry, either remove the door completely or replace it with side by side swinging doors or a pocket door that can slide inside the wall and out of the way. If you are remodeling your bedroom area, try to include a walk-in closet. Both the doorway and the center aisle of the closet should be 36” wide. That way anyone in a wheelchair is able to access clothes stored on both sides of the closet.