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A PN reader writes, "Our master bedroom has two six-foot-wide closets. Although the overall size is generous, sliding doors make it difficult to see and reach the closet's contents. In fact, we completely removed the doors in order to have better interior access. Is there a better type of door I could install? What do you recommend for the closet's interior layout?"

Ins and Outs

Access to closets can be difficult for wheelchair users. Inappropriate doors can be awkward to operate and can restrict access to the interior. Closet doors should always match the closet's overall width. If the doors are too narrow, the closet's corners are difficult to see and access. Common types of closet doors are swinging, sliding, and bifold. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Wide swinging doors, for example, require wheelchair users to position themselves clear of the leaf's arc as it is opened. Narrow swinging doors minimize this problem but reduce available access width. Sliding doors require less space to operate but always obstruct half the closet's width. Doors with floor-mounted tracks obstruct wheelchair entry.

Bifold doors that are hinged to stack flush against the wall are good alternatives. They are narrow, easy to operate, and allow access to the total closet width. Bifolds do not need floor tracks, thereby allowing carpet to seamlessly continue into the closet. Their shutter-hinged doors can be stacked flat against the wall when they are open so they don't interfere with maneuvering. With the doors out of the way, they can be left open whenever this is more convenient. Any closet door should have pull hardware that is easy to grasp, and catches that provide positive closure but minimal resistance.

Inside Scoop

With regard to the interior, your individual lifestyle dictates what you store in your closet, e.g., shoes, belts, shirts, pants, sweaters, jackets, underwear, socks, and, maybe, hats. In order to identify your storage needs, make a list. Based on your list, try to develop the ideal interior arrangement.

A flexible interior for wheelchair users is a "split closet" with high and low poles (see illustration). High hanger rods, while not accessible to some wheelchair users, will accommodate long dresses, overcoats, and garment bags. Upper rods can also be used to store off-season clothing.


You can reach high rods with assistance from family or a garment pole. High shelving, however, is usually inaccessible. Lower storage shelves are more convenient for people with restricted range-of-motion.

A raised shoe-shelf provides convenient elevated storage for wheelchair users and for people who have difficulty bending over. Other shelves and racks can be substituted for hanging space if this arrangement better meets your storage needs. A tie-rack carrousel, for example, allows you to store personal accessories such as neckties or belts in a relatively small area.

With careful planning, a closet space can be very efficient for storage and still fully accessible to wheelchair users.

Send your housing modification question and tips to:


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Author:Davies, Thomas D. Jr.; Lopez, Carol Peredo
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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