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Kitchen accommodations

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The kitchen can present a multitude of challenges for an individual with a disability. Individuals may have difficulty accessing the room, maneuvering/turning inside the room, manipulating the fixtures & controls, difficulty accessing items from counters & cabinets, as well as decreased/poor lighting. Adaptive equipment and design can make it easier for individuals with disabilities to complete tasks in the kitchen.

In today’s day and age, the kitchen has become the focal point for many families. Of course, the kitchen is the place to prepare meals, but it has become more than that. The kitchen is a place for families and individuals to interact and come together to make meals and to discuss the activities of the day. Recent surveys have reported that individuals spend anywhere from 3-5 hours a day in the kitchen.


Contents

What kind of accommodations can be used in the kitchen?

There are a variety of accommodations options that can be utilized in the kitchen. Many companies have cabinets, appliances, and accessories that look good and function for individuals with a wide variety of abilities.

  • Cabinets can be designed to allow for individuals with mobility impairments to access upper cabinets with motorized lowering of upper cabinets, roll-out shelves in lower cabinets for easier access of items in the back, and open-bottom or adjustable sinks/stoves that can allow a person using a wheelchair to gain close access and roll underneath.
  • Install lights underneath of upper cabinets to allow a person better lighting while working at the counter.
  • Install a switch for the exhaust hood at front of counter for person using a mobility device to have better access.
  • Keeping items used often in easily accessible place, such as the countertop.


Appliances

Consider having appliance at heights that work well for the user, as well as have controls that are easy to access and manipulate.

Refrigerator

Side-by-side refrigerators may a good option for someone who cannot access a freezer above the refrigerator.

Dishwasher

Having the dishwasher mounted on a raised platform 6-8 inches above the floor will reduce the bending and reaching needed to load and unload the dishwasher. Having a dishwasher with level handle or blade knob controls are excellent controls for setting different wash cycles but touch pads are better for individuals with loss of finger mobility and strength. Electronic touch pad controls are the best controls for degraded finger/hand mobility and strength but can be confusing for multiple inputs for the dishwasher.

Microwave Oven

Microwave height may need to be lowered for someone seated or using a wheelchair, as well as be accessible for children and shorter individuals. Again, electronic touch pad controls would be best for someone with degraded finger/hand mobility and strength.

Sink

Installing/replacing kitchen faucet with a lever handle to allow for easier access by persons with decreased dexterity.

Stove / Oven

Side-opening, wall-mounted ovens allow a person using a mobility device easier access to oven. Also consider adding a heat-resistant pull-out shelf directly below oven to allow person a place to sit hot, heavy items once they've been removed from oven. Consider having the controls for the stove mounted on the front or side of the oven to reduce the likihood of a burn caused by reaching over hot burners to control the stove. See our other articles for more information about stove features for people with motor impairmentsor for people with sensory or cognitive impairments.

For cooks with decreased olfactory senses, consider replacing gas stoves with electric. This reduces the chance of a person not detecting a gas leak (if one should happen).

Other kitchen tools

There are also many kitchen utensils that can be used to assist a person in the kitchen:

  • Jar pop to open jars easier
  • One-handed can opener
  • Rocker knife or larger-handled utinsels
  • Dycem to hold items in place
  • C- or D- shaped handles on cabinets allow for easier accress
  • Kettle tippers which allow a person to pour hot contents of kettle using one hand


Recommendations

Counter height

  • 30”-32” for someone seated or in wheelchair. It’s always a good idea to vary some of the countertop heights this way you can incorporate a standard 36” for other people to use.
  • Always a good idea to install heat proof counter surfaces near stove and oven for transferring of hot materials.
  • There are manual / hydraulic adjustable counters that work well for people of differing height and different needs.

Spacing between cabinets

  • Recommend 42” min, but prefer 48” – 60”
  • This will allow room to maneuver a mobility aid, as well as allow other people to get by without interference.

Cabinets

  • Lower cabinet height - Existing overhead cabinets can be lowered down as far as the top surface of existing counters if necessary. This provides accessible storage at minimal cost. Cabinets lowered to 12 to 15 inches above the counters, keep the counter surface usable.
  • Install lighting under top cabinet to give direct task lighting down onto countertop/work surface.
  • Access to lower cabinets - Install cabinets with roll-out drawers, thereby making items easier to see and reach.
  • If desirable, install cabinets with a 9” rise – this will better accommodate the foot rests of the wheelchair.

Rolling Cart

  • Having a small rolling cart is a good option for someone with decreased strength or endurance. The cart should be at the countertop height to make transferring of items easy. This will decrease the need for multiple trips to/from the refrigerator for supplies, as well as make it easier for a person with decreased strength or endurance collect or put away items, such as groceries.

Work station

  • This will allow for someone using a wheelchair or someone with decreased endurance to sit while at the same time get up close to counter top for cooking/meal preparation activity.
  • Recommend 36” wide, 30”-32” from finished floor, and 24” deep


Resources

National Association of Home Builders – http://www.toolbase.org/index.aspx

National Kitchen & Bath Association – http://www.nkba.org

Infinitec Home Modifications information – http://www.infinitec.org

Do-Able Renewable Home – http://www.homemods.org/library/drhome/

AS-AS – http://www.ad-as.com/index_f.htm

UD Homes: Universal design principles for home modifications http://www.universaldesignhomes.com