Special needs homeowners need modified kitchens that are completely functional and can be easily accessed by a wheelchair. Accessible homes and kitchens have only recently become popular as home design is moving towards more inclusiveness. There are many elements that need to be considered while designing an accessible kitchen, for example, is the entrance large enough, are the dishes placed low enough to be accessible, can the microwave be reached easily, is the prep area easy to access and so on. The purpose of these kitchens is to provide more independence to the less able and wheelchair bound people and give them the freedom to perform basic daily tasks on their own.
Here are a few important modifications you should consider when designing a wheelchair accessible kitchen:
1. Lowered kitchen Countertops:
Normally a kitchen countertop is 36” high, but while designing an accessible kitchen, they are kept at 34” or lowered to almost 28” depending upon the client’s needs. This makes it easier for them to reach the back of the countertops as well and work easily without getting tired. The width of accessible countertops is usually 30” and can be adjusted accordingly. Another thing to keep in mind is to not obstruct the countertops with primary cabinets and keep space for knees and toes. To determine the right height and width of countertops, adjusted tables can be used prior to installing the countertops to find the comfortable height according to the client’s needs.
2. Kitchen Sinks:
For accessible kitchens, space under the sinks is kept open to allow easy access to wheelchairs and walkers. Knee clearance for sinks is usually kept at 27” high and 8” deep, or sometimes 11” deep depending upon what the client is comfortable with.. One of the most important things to be kept in mind is the pipes. The pipes tend to get really hot and will be dangerous for legs. Which is why they should be properly sealed and isolated to keep any accidents from happening. Moving on to the faucets, they should be single lever faucets and are easily accessible. Touch control faucets are also a very viable option and can be installed to the side of the sink to make them more accessible. Side drawers can be added to the sink to store cleaning products and reach them easily.
3. Wall Cabinets:
The wall cabinets need to be carefully designed because if they are lowered too much, it compromises the work area of the countertops, but if they are too high they can be inaccessible. One feasible option is to use electric cabinets that can be adjusted by lowering and raising them with a button and saves the countertop space. The regularly used items like spices, can be kept in pull out drawers and keep pots and pans in the cabinets. There are more accessible options like pull down shelves, adjustable shelves, drawer dividers, etc that make reaching things really easy. As for the handles on cabinet doors and drawers, use looped pulls instead of knobs to avoid any twisting and pinching motions. Another easy access option is to use touch release drawers and doors, or swing up hardware that can allow cabinets to hinge at the top and stay open.
It’s pretty obvious that the appliances should be installed lower, at approximately 31” from the floor. In order to eliminate having to reach across hot burners, electric cooktops with staggered burners should be installed. Moreover, the dishwasher should be installed at least 6-8” above the floor and made accessible from either side. A bottom-drawer freezer is an excellent option for accessible kitchens and will make it easier to reach and store things.
Accessible kitchens aim at giving more freedom to special needs homeowners and help them live independent lives. These are some important design modifications that should be kept in mind while designing an accessible kitchen to provide maximum comfort to the clients.