The ultimate guide to accessible kitchen design

When it comes to kitchen design, one area that needs particular thought is for disabled users or those later in life who have limited mobility.

Luckily there are so many flexible and adaptable products on the market these days that it’s becoming easier than ever to make kitchens more adaptable.

And why shouldn’t you have a room that’s bespoke to how you use it? With the amount of time we spend in open plan kitchen areas today, it makes perfect sense to have the space engineered specially to suit your family’s needs. In this article, we talk about the considerations you’ll need to make and the type of adaptations it may be helpful to incorporate in your kitchen:

Wheelchair users

A U-shape or L-shaped kitchen works best for wheelchair users in terms of the overall design. To accommodate a wheelchair, for instance, you’ll need a clear wide walkway between cabinets and walls of at least 1500mm square. That way, the chair can pivot without clashing with appliances. The doorway should be at least 840mm wide (ideally 900mm) to give wheelchair users elbow room when entering and leaving the kitchen. Wheelchair users will need lower worktops for prepping food, while drop-down storage units will also help.

Visually-impaired users

For homeowners with sight difficulties, it’s all about tactile work surfaces to help them work out where they need to be – including preferably non-slip floor tiles - so they understand they have moved from the kitchen into the sitting room or hall. Voice commands for switching on a dishwasher or oven help. So too does braille on touchpads.

Kitchen Cabinets – Accessible Alterations

Drop-down shelving via a handle on a standard door cabinet can allow items to become more accessible for a wheelchair user. Shallow drawers in lower cabinets can accommodate pots and pans. Like the sink idea, removing a base cabinet can allow a wheelchair to fit under the countertop for prepping.

A tall, narrow pull-out cabinet is great for reaching packets of pasta, tins of soup etc. Soft closing doors and drawers make them easier to shut – and stay shut.

Sink and Taps

The sink can be designed at a height where a wheelchair can fit underneath. That way it should be easy to reach the plug hole. A shallow bowl is a good idea too, as well as levers instead of twist knobs for taps. A push-button on the spray makes that easier to operate too.

Lighting

Be warned: under-cabinet lighting doesn’t always work for a wheelchair user. The glare can be too close and hurt their eyes and even give them a sore head. A smart lighting system is a good idea that operates either with voice control or a touchpad. Buttons on countertops can switch on spotlights or extractor fans.

Extractor fan

Fans can be operated with a remote-control device. It’s easy to buy an appliance these days where the hob and cooker hood interact automatically. Just look for the label Hood2Hob technology.

Appliances for accessible kitchens

Hob

A modern countertop induction hob is ideal, preferably at waist height for a wheelchair user. A Linear or Panoramic hob can be ideal for a wheelchair user since it means all four hobs are at the front of the worktop horizontally (rather than in a square formation).

Open flame burners on a gas stove are out, and so too are electric cookers where the ring could be accidentally left on. In terms of operating the hob, either knobs or a touchpad can be used, depending on the user's dexterity.

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Oven

You’ll find a number of smart ovens on the market today. These work via voice commands where the temperature, timer etc can be easily set without touch. To make the oven door easier to open a swing door – rather than pull down – can be fixed. Neff has a Slide and Hide Door, which pulls down and slides away, leaving plenty of room for a wheelchair.

Fridge and Freezer

A fridge on top and freezer beneath is better than a giant US-style double fridge/freezer. Drawers and shelves that can be pulled out are more accessible than reaching to the back of an open fridge.

It’s possible to purchase smart fridges that have the technology to order ingredients for you when they run out. You can even ask if there is a particular ingredient in the fridge that just isn’t visible – or at least at eye level.

Dishwasher

To make the dishwasher more user-friendly for a wheelchair user, it’s good to position it a little higher up so that the controls are at eye height. He or she can then also bend down to easily pick up the plates, cups etc, on the lower shelf. AEG Comfortlift has a button that allows the bottom rack to slide forward and pop up, making it more comfortable for a wheelchair user.

At Bryan Turner Kitchens, we can design any kitchen to your unique specifications. Call us or order a brochure today.