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Modular Cabinet Unit Aids the Handicapped

May 05, 1985|Dale Baldwin

One of the most popular exhibits at last month's Abilities Unlimited exhibition at the Los Angeles Convention Center was the one from Medinorm, a division of HFI Inc., 10300 Westoffice Drive, Houston.

Designed primarily for those in wheelchairs, the Medinorm modular kitchen cabinet unit features a mechanical design that allows counters and cabinets to be raised or lowered either manually or electrically. An electric eye feature limits the lowering to prevent injury, according to H. B. (Bo) Herring Jr., HFI president.

We who aren't handicapped have difficulty imagining the hazardous maze that is the conventional kitchen. The counters are inaccessible, as are the back burners on a stove. The top cabinets are useless because they are too high. There often isn't enough clearance for wheelchairs.

Herring discovered the Medinorm "ergonomic kitchen" unit in the Netherlands and was so impressed with the potential of it that he obtained distribution rights for the United States. He reasoned that the system fills a void; there are no domestic manufacturers of kitchen cabinets and cooking units that perform quite the same functions as the Medinorm.

Burners in the cooking unit can be ordered in a row, rather than the conventional two in front, two in back layout. This minimizes burns and makes sense even for the nonhandicapped.

The slant-sided sink has a ridge to catch pots or dishes before they crash into the bottom, another good idea that should be adopted widely.

"What attracted me about the Medinorm system is that it doesn't look institutional," Herring explained as exhibit-goers maneuvered their wheelchairs under the counter surface and raised and lowered the various cabinets. "The system is available in a variety of wood-grained, European-style cabinets that would look at home in the fanciest kitchen."

Since the system is modular, prices vary widely, according to Len Forte, division manager of Systems for Independent Living, 3125 Penryn Road, Penryn (Sacramento) Calif., the California distributor. A simple unit can cost as little as $2,000 or as much as $10,000 or more, he said. An L-shaped layout is closer to the $10,000 price range, Forte added.

Another advantage, especially for apartment dwellers or for those who move a lot, is that the Medinorm unit doesn't have to be fastened to the wall. This is typical of its European origin, where built-in kitchens are the exception rather than the rule in apartments.

I just came across the fifth issue (June, 1985) of Wood, a Better Homes and Gardens bimonthly magazine for woodworkers. I can't wait to get the four earlier issues! This is a fine magazine, nearly as good as Fine Woodworking. The magazine has a test of jigsaws, a much-neglected power tool that deserves better. Included is a Bosch jigsaw, Model 1581, that I reported on in this space last Dec. 9.

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