Devon Disabled Kitchen Specialists describe the benefits of kitchen home adaptations for the disabled home owner.
There is more information available on modifying a kitchen to suit the disabled than any other part of a home. When designed correctly, an accessible kitchen can be used easily by everyone in the household.
Cabinets and Countertops
The recommended minimum clearance between opposing cabinet fronts, countertop edges or walls is 40 inches except for a U-shaped kitchen, which is 60 inches.
If the doors of the base cabinets can be removed and the base of the cabinet can be cut out in front of the sink, a person in a wheelchair can roll up to the sink rather than approaching it parallel and twisting sideways in the wheelchair.
If sink cabinet doors are removed, insulate the hot water pipes to prevent leg burns. A 36 inch spray hose allows for rinsing dishes and filling pans.
A functional food preparation area is essential. This can be achieved by removing additional cabinet doors and other parts of the base cabinets, allowing a front approach to a counter and a work area in front. A pull-out cutting board also is very useful. Cut a hole in the board to hold a mixing bowl. A small dining or breakfast table can serve as a work centre. If the kitchen is small, a fold-down table hinged to the wall may provide additional work space.
If you own or are buying a home in the local Devon area, consider having a section of the base cabinets made adaptable. Make a minimum 30-inch section of counter mounted on heavy duty shelf brackets adjustable for alternative heights. This section is commonly used as the mixing center. Standard counter height increments are 28 inches, 32 inches and 36 inches (36 is standard). The toe space is 10 inches high and 8 inches deep under the cabinet for clearance of wheelchair footrests.
Other recommendations for base cabinets include:
- U-shaped handles for easy use to avoid grasping a knob;
- Installing lazy-susans, pull-out trays or storage shelves and pot racks;
- holders for various food wraps attached to the inside of cabinet doors;
- 2 feet of heat-resistant countertop next to the range allowing wheelchair users to slide hot utensils without the danger of trying to lift them;
- using small electrical appliances, which often are easier to handle; and,
- if possible, the installation of a double sink with a shallow (5 to 6 inch) side or a cushioned rack in one side that can be used to raise the bottom of one side of the sink. The drain of the sink should be in the back for easier reach and maximum leg space around the disposal.
Lower the bottom shelf of the wall cabinets to a maximum of 48 inches above the floor. If renting, consider adding a shelf under the wall cabinet. A variety of types and sizes are available. Under-the-cabinet small appliances are becoming popular throughout Devon and the surrounding areas. Before purchasing one, make sure that the wheelchair user can comfortably reach and use it.
Checklist of minimum features for the disabled homebuyer:
Entrance: level with exterior door or a ramp with an 8.33 percent grade
Doorway width throughout house: 32 inches interior and 36 inches exterior
Hallway width: 42 inches
Bathroom: 4 feet by 4 feet clear floor space
Storing Food and Utensils
Another aspect of kitchen design that can help or hinder wheelchair users is the placement of food and dishes. Be inventive and try putting items in different places to see what works.
Utensils and appliances should be close to the appropriate work areas, even if it means duplicating some items. Hang long barbecue tongs in various locations throughout the house to retrieve things that fall or are too high to reach.
Keep heavy pots, pans, dishes and mixing bowls on bottom shelves, along with canned foods. Pull-out shelves are easy to install and can provide more bottom shelf space. They can be taken with you if you move. Top shelves can hold boxes, glasses and small items, as well as items not used on a regular basis. If the top shelf is made of clear plastic, a person in a wheelchair can see the contents.
Install shelves in a broom closet to convert it into a pantry. Pegboard, attached to the wall and equipped with hooks, is an excellent way to store pots, pans and utensils or anything else used often. An extension gripper permits a seated person to use high shelves that would otherwise be out of reach. Unbreakable, plastic containers and stainless steel bowls also are helpful.
A rolling or cutting-block table with wheels can take food, dishes and small appliances to and from the table (particularly if the table is in another room) or used for a work centre. A lazy-susan on a shelf in the refrigerator makes it easier to retrieve food from the back. To help see food that is cooking, attach a removable mirror at an angle to the wall behind the cooktop. It is easier to see cooking food from a wheelchair if clear glass cookware is used.