A research team at Iowa State University is developing a type of modular kitchen that can change with the needs of a home’s occupant.
Professor Mary Yearns of ISU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies says the countertops and cabinets are secured with screws and can be easily moved, removed or replaced. “They’re modular cabinets. That’s a unique approach that we’ve developed to make component parts that can be taken apart and put back together again sort of like Legos,” says Yearns, who’s also an ISU Extension housing specialist.
She says one of the biggest challenges for people with disabilities or aging adults is independent living. Yearns says this type of modular kitchen, called “Kwik-Change Kabinets” could make homes or apartments much more user-friendly. “As people’s need change, it could be taken apart and put back together again with different components to create a lowered countertop for someone who’s shorter or a sit-down work area for someone who uses a wheelchair or a higher countertop for tall people or a lowered sink so that someone in a wheelchair can get access to the sink,” Yearns says.
Performing routine tasks around the home, like meal preparation, can be difficult according to Yearns as standard kitchen cabinets and countertops are too high or inaccessible for those with special needs. Yearns says these cabinets aren’t going to be available at your nearest home improvement store for a while yet. “These are just cabinet prototypes,” she says. “This was a research project. Our next step is to try to get them commercially manufactured and we’ve been exploring options with several cabinet manufacturing companies.”
She says the universal design of the units will allow adjustments to be made to fit any person’s height in as little as ten minutes with a screwdriver.