Title page for ETD etd-09132006-210851

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Cline, Holly Leeann
URN etd-09132006-210851
Title The Evaluation of Universal Design Kitchen Features by People in Wheelchairs
Degree PhD
Department Housing, Interior Design, and Resource Management
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Beamish, Julia O. Committee Chair
Emmel, Jo Ann Committee Member
Parrott, Kathleen R. Committee Member
Peterson, Mary Jo Committee Member
Reilly, Virginia J. Committee Member
  • Universal Design
  • Kitchen Design
  • Accessibility
  • GE Real Life Design Kitchen
  • People in Wheelchairs
Date of Defense 2006-08-10
Availability unrestricted

The purpose of the study was to investigate the effectiveness of universal design kitchen features by people using wheelchairs. The study examined the features of the GE Real Life Design Kitchen in the Center for Real Life Design at Virginia Tech and determined which universal design features were beneficial to users in wheelchairs. The specific objectives were:

  1. to evaluate the universal design features of the GE Real Life Design Kitchen by people in wheelchairs, and
  2. to examine how the GE Real Life Design Kitchen is used by people in wheelchairs as they prepare a meal in the space.

Nine participants, with various disabilities, who use a wheelchair on a daily basis were selected for the study. The sample consisted of 5 male and 4 female participants with ages ranging from 28-58 years old. Each participant had varying levels of grip, strength, and memory as a result of their disability. Data for this study were collected through a variety of observation and interviewing methods.

The study was separated into four different sections/activities; the pre-cooking interview, the universal design evaluation, the cooking activity, and the post-cooking interview. Each participant was asked to test specific universal design features located in the GE Real Life Design Kitchen and was given a set menu and asked to prepare a meal.

The results of this study determined that people who use a wheelchair while cooking are very efficient and do not require much counter space in order to prepare a meal. Appliances with easy to read and use controls are preferred and should be located within good visual range of a person in a wheelchair to be effective. In addition, it was determined that a pull-out cutting board and some type of roll-out tray feature in a base cabinet is useful to a person in a wheelchair. The results concurred with existing recommendations concerning clear floor and open knee spaces at the sink and cooktop areas, and also discovered that clear floor and open knee space is useful under a countertop microwave because it allows the wheelchair user to get their body closer to the task.

Results from this study cannot be generalized to a national population of wheelchair users because of the limitations of the sample. Results, however, are significant in terms of providing consumers, cabinet and appliance manufacturers, policy makers, and designers with valuable insight and information concerning the inclusion of universal design features in kitchens and environments that accommodate the needs of all people, including the person in a wheelchair. In addition, the results of this study imply that not all universal design features recommended in kitchen design are beneficial to people in wheelchairs. Further investigation of some of the universal design features tested is needed.

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