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You have decided that you need to either design a new kitchen or redesign an existing one to make it wheelchair accessible. Where do you begin? How do you balance convenience with cost? This article is for you.
We will take a look at some of the important points you need to consider in the design phase to make your kitchen more wheelchair accessible. We will cover cabinets, flooring, lighting, electrical and appliances.
According to the ADA the proper floor to counter top height should be ideally 32” and no higher than 34”. Toe kicks need to be 9” high and 6” deep to accommodate the footrest of the wheelchair under the cabinet edge. At approximately 24’ from the floor, make indents for handicapped person's knees, so they can feel comfortable and relaxed using kitchen counters.
For base cabinets you need to keep in mind knee space access to the sink and counter top. You might want to install deep drawers instead of cabinet doors to make items more accessible.
Upper cabinets present a different problem because upper shelves will not be accessible to someone in wheelchair. Consider lowering those shelved about 6” and make everyday items available on those shelves.
The flooring surface should be made from hard material, like wood or ceramic tile or stone. Never use softer flooring like carpet, area rugs, or any type of flooring that has give to it. Moving a manual wheelchair around on this type of surface can be very difficult.
There are many options including compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs and LED lights that make the lighting of counter top and stove top for various tasks very easy. Keep in mind switches that are easily accessible by someone in a wheelchair.
All the electric outlets and switches should be placed at an easily accessible height and these electrical points should be adequately wired in order to minimize the risk factors. In most cases outlets are placed behind the base cabinet, either just above or in the backsplash itself. This is not an ideal position for someone in a wheelchair. They will have to over reach to use the outlet. The best place for an outlet for someone in a wheelchair is in the face of the base cabinet, just under the countertop.
Another alternative is a popup multi-outlet that can be installed in the countertop itself within easy access of the wheelchair occupant. Ideally switches should be located at 48" above the floor level so that they are within reach of the occupant of the wheelchair. If the occupant has limited use of fingers, rocker style switches might work best. Electrical outlets that are on walls without cabinets should be a minimum of 18” above the floor.
All appliances that are used by handicapped people should be installed keeping in mind their maximum height when in a wheelchair. Conventional stovetops are not suited for people in wheelchairs. A separate cook top and oven will be needed. The cook top will require adequate knee space below the counter. At countertop level there should be a heat resistant surface to place hot items on.
The oven should be fixed in a base cabinet for easy loading and unloading. For dishwashers, the drawer style ones can be mounted in the usual manner, no adjustments are needed. The front loading ones will need to be raised 9” to make loading and unloading easier from the wheelchair. Microwaves should be mounted under the countertop. Refrigerator that work best for people in wheelchairs are the side by side model or a French door model with the freezer at the base. We hope you found these wheelchair accessible kitchen tips useful.
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