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Fridge reviews

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With the help of guidelines developed with the Independent Living Centre (NSW), we've evaluated many fridges for potential difficulties for people with a disability. Few modern fridges are particularly good in this regard, but here are some things to look out for.

Poor vision

  • Good internal lighting and clearly marked controls are essential.
  • Look for a strong contrast between labels, such as black or navy blue on a white background. And also between features (such as crispers) and their surroundings.

In wheelchair

  • Small and shallow fridges help access to items.
  • A bottom-mounted freezer tends to make using both compartments easier – a higher freezer may be almost impossible to reach as well as clean. Drawers or baskets that slide out easily in a bottom-mount freezer also improve accessibility. But access to all of the fresh-food, and in some cases the chiller, may be impossible with a large fridge.
  • Check where the temperature controls are positioned in the fresh-food compartment: they're often towards the top and back, so you may need help to adjust them.
  • Handles running vertically down the side of the door are easier to use.

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Upper limb dysfunction

  • The old-fashioned D-type handles are much easier for people with arthritis and lack of hand strength to use, but most modern fridges don't have them.
  • Generally, push button controls are suitable for most people in this group but may not suit those with tremors. In this case, controls with large knobs or slide-bars are better.
  • Look for controls at the front of the compartment.
  • Wire shelves and perforated door shelves are harder to clean and don't contain spills.
  • You'll probably find two small crisper drawers easier to handle than a single large one. Make sure chillers, crispers etc pull out smoothly and are stable once open – some tend to fall all the way out. People with tremors will find crispers with tracks harder to replace after removing them.
  • Avoid small and tightly-spaced shelf guides, as lining up the shelf to slide it in can be tricky.

Cognitive impairment

  • Some electronic fridges sound a warning alarm if they're left open, which can be a useful reminder. However, this depends on the individual – some may find it confusing.
  • Look for intuitive, simple controls and labelling. Food should be seen easily – for example, wire baskets in the freezer are better than ones with opaque plastic fronts.

Bad back

  • If you use the freezer a lot, you may prefer it on top, to minimise bending. If you don't, go for a bottom-mounted freezer so that the fresh-food compartment is at a handy height.
  • Temperature controls should be easy to reach without bending.
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