Leading kitchen designers have slammed the industry’s ‘Neanderthal’ approach to ergonomics. They say it lacks the expertise to combine aesthetics with safety and ease of use, prioritising the former and ignoring the latter.
Speaking at a special kbbreview round table on multigenerational (4G) living, leading design consultant Adam Thomas (pictured) said: “Designers and manufacturers have dipped their toe in 4G but they don’t understand how crucial effective ergonomics are to how disabled people use their kitchen. They don’t understand how to reach that market, which is why many businesses attempting it fail.
“The bathroom industry acknowledged years ago that there was a market that wasn’t being helped and said, ‘Let’s design everything ergonomically and everyone can use it, whatever age’. But the kitchen industry has been Neanderthal in that respect and hasn’t acknowledged the accessible market.”
Thomas has become one of the world’s leading experts on accessible design since a serious motorbike accident left him paralysed from the chest down. But 30 years later, to his knowledge, he claims he is still the UK’s only wheelchair using kitchen designer specialising in this field. He is highly critical of those in the industry who ignore the importance of 4G design.
“It’s not just a matter of training or designing a product,” he continued. “It’s teaching designers and manufacturers to understand the way that disabled clients function. Symphony is a positive example; they are introducing my design philosophy and principles into their existing standard kitchen offer, rather than having it as a separate ‘special’ range. This now means that people of any ability can have the same service whenever they want to replace their kitchen.
Also speaking at the round table was kitchen designer Johnny Grey, who agreed with Thomas that the aesthetics of the kitchen, rather than the ergonomics, seemed to be the industry’s main focus.
“Adam is creating great products for spatial design,” he said. “But there is a terrible deficit of skilled spatial design. 4G doesn’t just affect disabled people, it affects everybody. I just think the kitchen industry has got a very big problem with ergonomics. Blum is conducting ongoing ergonomic research globally, but as an industry that’s quite rare. We need this type of research right across the board.”
Grey claimed the solution to the problem was in building better lines of communication between different industry sectors.
“What we need is a dialogue with house builders and architects,” he said. “We’re not designing the kitchens that we need. They’re not being designed big enough to be made accessible. We need dialogue between the Government, the kitchen industry and architects and house builders. Our housing market is dominated by quite poorly focused house builders.”
- For the full round table discussion, and an extended section on 4G design, see the June issue of kbbreview