Mobility and accessibility are things that most people take for granted. For wheelchair-bound people and their caretakers, things aren’t always so easy. It’s not just getting around outside that’s harder in a wheelchair. Even things like sharing meals can become a more complicated task when one or more people need a wheelchair-friendly dining table.
Whether they’re looking for small wheelchair-accessible dining room tables or ADA-accessible furniture for public facilities, buyers need to keep a few things in mind that may not be obvious if they don’t use wheelchairs themselves. Read on to find out what to consider and how to pick the right wheelchair-friendly dining table.
Pay Attention to the Legs
People buying wheelchair-friendly furniture don’t always consider everything it takes to maneuver a wheelchair into place. Legs that are too close together cause obvious problems, but finding the right table isn’t just a matter of getting a wider or longer one that has better spacing. If the legs feature large bases to distribute weight better and add structural strength, those well-intentioned design features can get in the way of a wheelchair’s front castors or footplates.
The solution may seem simple. Just buy a table that has one central pole instead of four legs. However, tables that feature this design are not all wheelchair friendly. Some have bases that extend too far out beneath the table, preventing wheelchair-bound users from approaching close enough to eat and making them feel like they’re not being included. Buyers who prefer this table design can visit inclusiontable.com to find an example of one wheelchair-friendly table that was created specifically with accessibility in mind.
Find the Right Height
Finding a table that’s the right height may not seem like it should be one of the most challenging aspects of choosing wheelchair-friendly furniture. However, even ADA-compliant tables sometimes fail to accommodate people with larger wheelchairs that elevate them higher off the ground. If one or more of the people eating at a table uses a power chair, for example, that can cause serious issues with accessibility.
When more than one wheelchair user will be sharing a meal, the situation can become even more complicated. Power chairs are generally much taller than standard wheelchairs. That’s a problem because while able-bodied people can sit in chairs that are higher off the ground to accommodate a taller table with more space, standard wheelchair users don’t have that luxury.
The best solution for situations where more than one wheelchair user will need to be able to pull up to the same table is to look for a specialty product that allows people to adjust not just the overall height of the table but also the amount of space beneath each seating area. That way, everyone can sit at the same dining room table without having to worry about finding creative solutions for boosting standard wheelchair users’ height.
Prioritize Structural Strength
No one should be using a dining room table with legs that wobble or seem in danger of snapping in half and causing injuries. For wheelchair users, though, it’s even more important to find a table that boasts sufficient strength. The problem isn’t just that people in wheelchairs can’t always dodge objects sliding off a table or get out of the way if something goes wrong. It’s also that the table’s legs must be well attached so that it can be moved easily throughout the room as needed to accommodate different groups of people.
Look for Suitable Materials
Even if someone who uses a wheelchair is generally very careful and in otherwise good shape aside from their disabling condition, safety is still important, especially if some of the people who might be sitting at the table are mobility-impaired but not wheelchair-bound. Buying a table with sharp metal edges or a glass top isn’t a good option. These materials are more likely than wood, plastic, and other alternatives to cause injury if someone falls. Buyers may also want to consider how easy it is to clean the surfaces.
Make Sure It’s Movable
Given that high-quality materials and structural integrity are such important factors when it comes to choosing a wheelchair-friendly table, it might seem like movability would be out of the question unless multiple able-bodied, exceptionally strong people were available to help. With the right design features, though, even the sturdiest table can be moved from place to place as needed. Some specialty accessibility tables now come with four-wheeled locking caster systems for easier table repositioning.
Keep Everyone Comfortable and Safe
In environments such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, and elderly housing, there are usually people of different mobility levels that might want to eat together. In many cases, the group could include people who are mobility-impaired but do not use wheelchairs. Purchasing managers need to take those needs into account, as well.
People with limited mobility who do not use wheelchairs need chairs that are sturdy, tip-proof, and easy to get in and out of. Typically, that means they feature wide bases and armrests. These features will also inform what kind of table is required to accommodate everyone and keep all users comfortable and safe, so don’t assume buying the table and figuring out the rest later is acceptable. It’s often more effective to find suitable chairs first.
Quality Is Key, So Don’t Settle
There can be no cutting corners when it comes to comfort, safety, and accessibility. Wheelchair users want to be included in dinners, activities, and conversations just like everyone else, and they deserve to have access to furniture and amenities that make it not just possible but easy to meet those goals. High-quality, wheelchair-friendly tables are built to last, so it makes little sense to settle for something cheaper only to replace it after just a few years, or even a few months.
Investing in a specialty wheelchair-friendly table is one of the best ways that everyone from school administrators to homemakers can let mobility-impaired people know that they are welcome. Don’t settle for anything less than the best.