Accessibility is concerned with issues of access and egress, while universal design is a concept of designing for transgenerational use, left – or right-handed users, pan-cultural uses, individuals without vision, and so on. Furniture designed with accessibility in mind would exclude beanbag chairs, hammocks, and chairs with narrow seat pans and tall arms because of the difficulty some persons have in accessing these designs. In these examples, getting in can be difficult and getting out even more so. Tables too high or too low and chairs in which the seat pan is too high or too narrow can be challenging to access.
Accessible furniture includes lift chairs, adjustable tables, and adjustable seating. Chairs and tables that are lightweight, have movable casters, and are stackable so that the floors can be cleaned or the space rearranged respond to issues of accessibility. Arms on a chair can help the elderly sit down and stand up, but care must be taken so that they don’t prevent larger people from gaining access.
Accessible work surfaces include tables, desks, and countertop heights that can be used by people in wheelchairs. To be considered accessible, table heights should be 28 to 34 inches (71 to 76.5 cm) above the floor with at least 27 inches (68.5 cm) clear for knee space.4