Building A Table For Wheelchair Access

We recently built a table to accommodate a client in a wheelchair. Without needing to get into all the details, she has been in her current home for much longer than she has been in a wheelchair. This is important because it means her home and furniture purchased or arranged with wheelchair access in mind, and in this case the table was not doing her any favors. 

It should also be noted that in this case her legs are extended when in her chair, not bent, so she needs more clearance in front of her. Her previous table had a large central base which prevented her from tucking in. As such, she had to eat in an almost sideways position at the table with her stomach nearly a foot away from the edge of the table.

Another issue was the height of the table. Standard table designs fall between 29 and 30” tall. People rarely think about the height of their table. They also rarely think about the clearance from their legs to the underside of the table. In this case, her legs are elevated off the ground at a higher position than were she sitting in a chair. 

wheelchair table

This presented us with a design challenge. We knew that we needed to have a corner leg assembly, this was clear. A corner leg assembly would mean the center of the table was clear for her legs. The table needed to be long enough that she could swing in between the legs, but not so long that it would encroach upon her clearance into the kitchen.

The thing about a corner leg assembly is that it is typically held together by four pieces of wood known as a “skirt” or “apron” that wraps around the underside of the table and holds each leg piece together. The problem with a skirt in this case is that it extends 3 inches below the table top which in this case would have prevented her from tucking all the way in. So how to have corner legs without a skirt?

What we did was take a 7” long, by 1” diameter dowel and drill down into the tops of each leg. We made the legs 3” squares so that there was plenty of meet to allow for a 1” hole to be drilled. We then glued and screwed a 1” thick by 5” x 5” top plate to each leg. Then we glued and hammered the dowel in through each top plate down into the leg. These leg assemblies were now solidly one piece. 

accessible wheelchair table


Then we were able to bolt each leg into the underside of the table top through the part of the top plate that overhung the leg (remember it was a 5 x 5 top plate on a 3 x 3 leg). The table was rock solid!

When we delivered the table, which was a beautiful maple table with an oil finish, it was as if it had always meant to be in the space. It functioned perfectly, but it was also beautiful, clean, minimalist and natural. It breathed new life into the space. It was light and airy, but sturdy. We never could have pulled this off without having gone out first to take measurements and seeing the layout and measuring her position in the chair, and needed clearance... but that’s how committed we are to getting it right for our clients. 

This is why you hire a custom furniture builder! The size and shape and design of your furniture matters and affects your every day life! If you need something custom built but don’t know where to begin, don’t worry! That’s what we’re here for. Call us at 857-576-2089 or email info@cannonhillwood.com