Barrier free kitchen cabinets and work surfaces.
Work surfaces and cabinets Standard kitchen counters are 36 inches from the floor, which is too high for a wheelchair user. An accessible kitchen should include at least one work surface that's between 30 and 32 inches from the floor, depending on the individual. To allow a direct approach, the space beneath it should have no obstructions, be at least 30 inches wide, and provide a minimum knee clearance of 27 inches from the floor. Logical locations for such surfaces are next to cooking appliances and sinks. This lower work surface can be a permanent feature or a height-adjustable countertop, which an engineer can design to be raised or lowered at the touch of a button to accommodate any user. Alternatively, pullout counters or a kitchen table can serve as accessible work surfaces. Some folks use holes cut into the table or counter's surface to further lower and at the same time stabilize items such as mixing bowls.
If your plans call for a new set of cabinets, we can help you with an accessible design. Most modern cabinets consist of modular units that can be mixed and matched to fit many configurations. You can often modify these units still further to include the features you need. Even if you have full range of motion in your torso and arms, most wall-mounted kitchen cabinets may be beyond comfortable reach from a seated position. If periodic assistance is available, however, overhead cabinets needn't be removed or omitted from a new design; they can be used to store infrequently used items or those used by standing members of the household.
To make the best use of space in deep, bottom cabinets, install sliding shelves or baskets; in corner cabinets, put in turntables. If you include in your design a pantry cabinet that allows you to reach everything, you'll have additional storage readily accessible. If shelves are fixed instead of sliding, they should be limited to a depth of 12 inches. Narrow bottom cabinets with swing-up platforms that accommodate frequently used appliances such as mixers or food processors provide access while saving precious counter space. If you have limited hand use, make sure the door and drawer handles are easy to grasp, or avoid them altogether through the use of push and release magnetic latches. You can also have electrical receptacles and switches mounted on cabinet faces, where they can easily be reached.
Separate cooktop and wall oven configurations offer some clear advantages over the freestanding range. Installed on a low or height-adjustable counter, cooktops are readily accessible and allow a clear view of the food being prepared. While they can be installed directly above a clear space, permitting a forward approach, this increases the risk of serious injury caused by spills. Instead, consider including accessible work surfaces on either or both sides of the cooktop. When choosing a cooktop unit, look for controls that are easy to reach and operate. Some electric models offer smooth glass or ceramic surfaces that are easy to clean and make it safer for sliding pots and pans.
Wall ovens should be installed at a height appropriate to the wheelchair user's abilities, while allowing enough clearance to manipulate the oven door as well as its controls. Ovens with doors hinged on the side rather than the bottom provide better access. Make sure there is a surface within reach on which hot dishes can be placed after removal from the oven. If a standard, freestanding range must be used, choose one with front controls and avoid models with hard-to-reach bottom broilers.
Microwave ovens can be convenient and safe. If you find a microwave indispensable in your kitchen, make sure you place it at the appropriate level.
If you buy a dishwasher, the ones with individually sliding baskets tend to work best. Look for easy-to-operate controls.
Refrigerators with the freezer section on the side rather than the top are a good choice. Their narrow doors require less clear space to open, and apart from the uppermost shelves, they offer good access to both refrigerator and freezer sections. Models with the freezer on top may prove adequate as long as you can access at least part of the freezer compartment from a seated position. Door-mounted water and ice dispensers may just be too convenient to pass up.
The need for minor appliances, ranging from electric can-openers and toasters to pasta makers and espresso machines, can only be determined by one's culinary tastes and physical abilities. In general, choose appliances that are stable yet light enough to handle. Appliances that mount below overhead cabinets are extra stable and save counter space.
Barrier Free Sinks and accessories.
Sinks should be mounted on low counters and include clear knee space. To prevent injuries, including burns, the sink and all associated pipes must be shielded from the user's legs with insulating material or a protective cover. Accessible sinks must be shallow; a depth of about six inches allows easy reach while providing the knee clearance necessary for a direct approach. Single-lever faucets are easiest to operate.
To include a garbage disposal, look for wide sinks that incorporate a small, very shallow compartment on one side, keeping the unit below the sink out of the way. Consider other sink accessories such as a retractable spray nozzle, installed separately or included with some of the better faucets. Instant hot-water dispensers eliminate some of the steps and risk involved in preparing hot beverages.
Keeping it simple
By today's prices, a brand-new, fully equipped, wheelchair-accessible kitchen can easily cost $10,000 to $100,000, depending on its size and complexity. Like any remodeling project, adapting your kitchen can also be disruptive . If these reasons are enough to discourage you from embarking on such a project, here is a way to keep on cooking without all the hassle.
Microwave or toaster ovens, portable ranges, and electric griddles and kettles can replace major cooking appliances. They can be placed on existing counters if within reach, or on a long table placed against a wall. A table of the appropriate height can likewise provide an accessible work surface. Small portable refrigerators, raised to a comfortable level, can replace full-size units if necessary. And storage needs can be met with a simple stand-alone cabinet or even open shelves. That covers everything but the kitchen sink, which, due to the plumbing involved, is a bit more difficult to improvise.