Accessibility and sexism

Until I started to redesign my condo, I never realized how many access issues were actually not issues of ableism but instead sexism. The most obvious evidence of this is that kitchen cabinets are set at a height best suited for men. When I could stand, I could not reach the upper cabinets and the counters were uncomfortably high.   Sure, I could use a step stool, but who really wants to.

After the obvious, I realized my thermostat was too high. I never could see it easily, but from a chair it became useless. The electric breaker box is also too high for me to reach, in a chair or not. Out of the reach of children, but also out of the reach of shorter adults.

Other things I knew, or started to think about differently were light switches, light plugs, peep-holes, door bells, window locks, etc. 3 inches lower would make a world ofdifference in my ability to be independent and would make them inaccessible for others.

There are a lot of things that I cannot reach because the wheelchair is in the way.  The first thing I confronted was the oven. The door opens down and it is hard to reach into.  There is a solution. Bosch and Frigidaire make a side swing oven. I think almost  anyone would like this better.

Another problematic appliance was the dishwasher. One solution is to go with the Fisher Paykel drawer dishwasher, but another is to get a narrower 18 inch dishwasher, like this one from Bosch.

The last inaccessible convenience that crossed my mind was the water shut-off valves. Toilets, sinks, dishwasher, and the whole house has them. Most I cant reach because they are in the back of a cupboard or behind the toilet. And they usually require multiple twists to shut them off.The solution to this was easy.  Quarter-turn valves.  I grew up with compression valves and didn’t realize another kind existed.  The other need was to have a whole house shut-off valve where I could reach it easily in all weather from my chair. (They are usually outside.)

I’ll go into greater depth about all these things in future posts, but I wanted to point about that some issues of access are issues not just for people with disabilities, but also shorter adults, women in particular.

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