The good news is there are companies that manufacture accessible closet storage solutions. Plus, there are really simple tips that can help you organize the stuff in your closet.
While researching storage solutions for upper kitchen cupboards (see my winter 2020 Community article “Get Those Upper Shelves in Reach”) I was introduced to a revolving closet system manufactured by Panasonic Housing Solutions. And although Panasonic is not specifically marketing this closet system as an accessible storage solution for people with disabilities, I think it could be.
Early in 2020 I connected with Wanchen Sun, the Business Development Manager, Housing Solutions, at Panasonic Canada Inc. She invited me to the Panasonic Housing Centre in Mississauga to see first-hand the products that they offer. In addition to the electronic products that many of us associate with Panasonic, Wanchen told me that the company has recognized a need for products that cater to the aging population. The revolving closet system is just one of those products.
The company is headquartered in Japan, where the aging/older adult market is much bigger than in Canada. Japan is home to over 36 million people aged 65 and older. That’s almost equal to the entire population of Canada, so it’s not surprising that Panasonic is focusing on this market.
The closet system works like a carousel. You can manually turn it in either direction until the items you’re looking for are right in front. There are two levels of hanging racks and baskets can be added for items that you’d normally put into dresser drawers. The lower level hanging racks and baskets are easily reached from a seated position. Since the carousel rotates, all of the racks can move to you; this means you can place it in a hard-to-reach corner or an area with a limited opening. There are two carousel widths available: 1.512 m and 2.318 m wide. The height (2.158 m) and depth (764 mm) of both options are the same.
I realize that some people may not be able to manually rotate the carousel, so I reached out to Yves Trottier of Simple Freedom Design to ask if he could customize the carousel so it can be motorized and automated. Yves’s company specializes in home product automation, including cabinets that lower down to counter level.
Yves replied “Yes, these carousel closets can definitely be automated. They can also be activated via Alexa or Google, even a phone app. We are living in amazing times were we can implement such technology to help make the home barrier free. Simple Freedom Design is proud to be on the leading edge of this movement.”
Another accessible closet solution for hanging clothes is a pull down closet rod from Rev-A-Shelf. This option works well when you have an upper and lower closet rod. The lower rod can be fixed in place at a height that is accessible from a seated position. The upper rod is connected to two weight adjustable spring loaded hinges on either side and a pole is positioned in the middle of the rod that can be used to pull the rod out and down 90 degrees. This allows the upper rod to be re-positioned within reach of a person sitting in a wheelchair. Closet widths between 457 mm and 1.22 m can be accommodated. The telescoping pull down rod can be adjusted between 863 mm and 1.27 m. This solution is manually controlled and therefore requires some arm strength.
Here are some other ideas to keep in mind when designing your closet:
- Keep stuff off of the floor so you can roll right in
- Clearance for your foot pedals so you get in close
- Drawers with rollers so they’re easily opened and closed (drawers can be motorized too!)
- Barn style sliding doors are easy to open and can provide a wider entrance clearance
Once you have a closet storage system in place, the next phase is to efficiently organize your stuff. For tips on this, I reached out to Karen Shinn from Downsizing Diva in Toronto. Karen is a member of the Professional Organizers of Canada.
Here are some of Karen’s recommendations for organizing your closet:
- Install double-hanging closet rods and more shelving to make better use of the available space.
- Use the lower, more accessible closet rods and shelves for your in-season clothes. The higher shelves and rods can be used for seldom-worn or out of season items.
- Most of us wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Just keep the clothes that make you feel great when you wear them! When you own fewer clothes, it’s easier to organize your closet.
Whatever closet space you have available, plan ahead to make it as efficient as possible.
Jeffrey Kerr, Broker, Barrier Free Real Estate Specialist
RE/MAX Unique Inc., Brokerage