Kitchens are one of the areas in home renovation that have attracted a lot of attention from both manufacturers and installers in terms of improving access. There’s a lot that can be done simply by ingenious installation of standard fitted kitchen equipment and plenty of custom equipment too.
In terms of the kitchen design, allowing access for wheelchair users is a case of good planning. Many people are aware that areas of the kitchen worktop need to be lower for wheelchair bound users to access them but something that’s less obvious is the need for space beneath the worktop (and sinks and drainers too) to allow room for the wheelchair when those surfaces are in use.
Access Issues in Kitchens Usually Demands More Space
This causes something of a logistical nightmare as someone who is wheelchair bound or otherwise restricted in movement is unlikely to be able to access shelves and cupboards high up on the wall. This means that storage has to be closer to the floor, vying for space with this need for leg and chair room.
Of course, if there are able-bodied people in the house too, then they can use the high up storage facilities but there’s then a risk of making the kitchen a divisive place, when the idea is to have equal access for all. This all means that lots of floor space is required and a household renovation is therefore exactly the right time to create a kitchen that everyone can access.
For food preparation a section of low (or adjustable height) counter top can have a hole cut into it to allow a mixing bowl to be secured at a good working height for someone in a wheelchair. Make sure there’s space for a chopping board too, and, if possible, fit a shallow drawer under the counter for the knives and other utensils required for cooking.
Use Standard Fittings in New Ways to Provide Easier Access
If you’ve got the space, try and install a shallow sink and drainer in the same lowered run of worktop. This means that everything for preparation and hygiene will all be in the one place, which makes everything a lot easier to access. Another neat trick is to use the pull-out and lift up shelves that some kitchen manufacturers make for food processors and other kitchen gadgets.
This can provide an additional worktop that can be put out of the way when not required. If installed in the right place and at the right height, it can be used for wheelchair users to slide hot items out of the oven straight on to a work surface. Make sure the shelf is heatproof though.
For storage at floor level, use drawer units rather than cupboards. These give access to all the items at one glance rather than having to bend down and move things at the front to access the things at the back. If you do go for cupboards, use lazy susans, pull-out trays and wire baskets to make it easier to access the items in them. And with drawers, consider putting two handles on, one at each side, so that wheelchair users can access them from either side.
Access is in the Detail
Details count for a lot too. Consider labelling storage tins and boxes on the top so that they can be read as soon as a drawer is pulled out. Use U-shaped handles rather than knobs as they are easier to grasp, long-levered taps, store small items on shelves on the insides of cabinet doors and, lag pipes under worktops to avoid burns to legs.
All those little items and more can make the difference between a kitchen that everyone can access and one full of constant niggles.