Having designed custom closet organizer systems for years, Ive come across many, many different situations and my goal is always to make each closet space function to the best ability of each client. Designing a custom closet organizer for a client that is functional and looks great always leaves me feeling accomplished. Knowing that a client has increased storage space and is happy with the final installed product makes me happy in return.
Not every closet organizer or client has the same needs, however; there have been more than a few occasions where Ive designed custom closet organizer systems to function for clients for whom a wheelchair is their main form of mobility. Whether a client is seeking out custom closet organizer systems or is just curious about what type of closet accessories can help make a closet more wheelchair compatible, there are some design concepts that are used again and again when designing a special needs closet.
Wardrobe lifts are not only great for high storage of seasonal clothing; they are also great for making clothes more accessible at mid level heights. Wardrobe lifts are small closet rods held up by hinged supports; they can be pulled outward and down by a handle to bring the clothes to an accessible level. Many closet organizer systems feature double hanging sections to increase storage, but wheelchair bound clients may not be able to reach the higher tier of clothing. Replacing the higher closet rod with wardrobe lifts in 20 - 35 wide sections can increase clothing storage and make it accessible for everyone.
Shelving configuration also plays a large roll on how much of the space in the closet can function for clients with accessibility limits. Everyone may have different preferences on how they would like the shelving configured in closet organizer systems, but one solution is to suspend the shelving 30 (or lap height) from the floor. Measuring the height of the client's lap while sitting in the chair will give you an approximate level to place a bottom shelf. I would add a few inches for comfort, then place adjustable shelving above the decided lap height. This will allow a wheelchair to roll under the shelving, which will bring the client closer to the storage items and making them more accessible.
If the shelving is not suspended but is built from the floor and up, then the foot rests of the wheelchair would likely hit the shelving and make some storage items extend beyond a comfortable arm's reach. Installing suspended shelving in closet organizer systems not only gives the client easier access to shelf items, but gives the wheelchair more room to maneuver in a small space such as a closet. The wheels will not be blocked from turning or moving and the lower half of the custom closet organizer systems will be open and free from obstacles.
Slide-out shelving at lower levels is another option that can make items easier to access. Slide-Out Baskets Drawers can be used at the same heights as the bottom shelving (around 30 above the floor). Keep in mind that slide-out storage at this height will only be functional if one or two 6-8 sized drawers or baskets are placed in a section; anything higher will be out of reach.
Closet accessories such as tie racks and belt racks are great in any closet, but definitely come in handy if installed at reachable levels for clients who use wheelchairs. Ties, belts, necklaces, scarves, purses, hats and other accessories can be stored on a rack in custom closet organizer systems.
Even adding smaller items such as specialty non-slip hangers can make a big difference in these closet organizer systems. Hangers that prevent garments from slipping off and falling onto the floor are convenient for everyone, but even more so for clients who use wheelchairs to get around. Clothing that may fall to the floor can be out of reach and tasking to retrieve. Fabric wrapped, velvet or rubber coated hangers are great fixes for this.
Mix It Up
All of these ideas can help a closet become more compatible for persons in a wheelchair and using them together can really maximize storage space and guarantee that items are accessible. You may decide that you would like a few shelves or drawers at 30 from the floor, then add a wardrobe lift above that or a standard lower level pole with a wardrobe lift above for more clothing storage. The great thing about custom closet organizer systems is that there are many, many options and configurations that will work, just decide which is best for your client and get started.
Tabitha Kokoska is the Creative Director at ClosetPages.com where she manages the closet organizer blog and contributes to the e-newsletter. Connect with Tabitha on: closetpages.com, twitter.com/ClosetPages, and twitter.com/TabithaKokoska. Sign up for the Closet Pages newsletter for more great tips!
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