Accessibility in the Kitchen

Jan 26, 2011
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Just as I seem to be always preaching to other fitness professionals that there is a huge market out there for them if they would get training and experience (and market to) people with disabilities, I realized in researching this article that this really translates into other areas as well. For example, contractors should learn about and market barrier-free design and construction services, both commercially and residentially. For a contractor to know of products that can create an obstacle-free environment for full movement throughout the home and that conforms to their clients’ needs would be a huge feather in the cap of any contractor. Here are some resources that I found that can assist any contractors, or clients of contractors, in designing a barrier-free kitchen.

Another really useful article came from http://www.asktooltalk.com/articles/construction/accessibility/kitchens.php. It described the three main considerations in accessible kitchens as being wheelchair mobility, work space comfort, and accessibility to cabinets and storage spaces and gave numerous measurements, suggestions, and resources pertaining to all of these. I listed some examples here, as well as some interesting products I found on both, but go to the link at asktooltalk.com to get a lot more specifics.

  • Obviously take the individual’s wheelchair measurements into account for maneuvering around the kitchen is crucial, but other important measurements include entry doors, swing space of entry door, countertop height and depth, knee space (under sink) and safety of hot pipes in the knee space, sink depth, appliance height, and light switch, thermostat and electrical outlet height.
  • The faucet should be a loop or single lever for easy operation.  Kohler makes the “Coralais”, a single-handle model with a standard 9 1/2” spout and push button control for one-touch switching from stream to spray.  The Extended Lever Kitchen Faucet by Barrier Free Architecturals, Inc. features a 10” long handle.
  • Appliances can be found that have (i.e.) staggered burners on the cooktop or controls (including signal lights) on the front so no one has to reach across the burners. Other appliances such as a compact range-sink-refrigerator unit allow more flexibility.  Dwyer Products Corporation offers a selection.
  • Height of cabinetry important, but also features like pull-out cutting boards, slide-out or roll-out shelves and baskets, and drawers with full extension glides are helpful.  KraftMaid Cabinetry, Inc. produces a pull-out base mini-pantry cabinet that is accessible from both sides and http://www.barrierfree.org/wheelchair-accessible-kitchen/ offers a variety of lifts, for cabinetry, shelving, counters, and appliances.
  • Even beyond design, modifications to utensils and dishes exist such as utensils with extra large handles to make them easier to hold; ones that can be weighted to reduce hand tremors; or dishes can have suction cups on the bottom so they don’t slide out of place.

I thought it was also important to add some ideas for making kitchens accessible for other disabilities as well so check these out too:

Visual Impairments
• Talking timers, kitchen scales and thermometers
• Braille timers, measuring cups, stove knobs and other appliance controls
• Multi-use tactile stickers printed or embossed on plastic with bright, translucent colors can be used to mark microwave buttons or other key items.
• Glare-free lighting, cabinets, and low-gloss counter laminate

Deaf or Hearing Impaired
• Timers that are extra loud or that flash

Intellectual Disabilities
• Kitchen timers to remind to turn off the stove or take food out of the oven
• Recipes with illustrated instructions
• Using the microwave for cooking

I don’t think people realize #1 just how many people with disabilities there are in this world (~52 million, and it frustrates me when people suggest that society shouldn’t have to consider that “small” part of the population when creating products for the masses) but #2 how word of mouth in the disability community can spread like wildfire. Though it’s not a small community, it is tight-knit, and having the skills and knowledge in ANY profession to cater to your clients’ needs and abilities (whatever those may be) would be to your advantage.

Author: Blythe



  • Mimi

    There are actually 54 million people with a disability….WOW what a large population

  • http://www.marblepolishing.net Marble Polishing

    I thought it was also important to add some ideas for making kitchens accessible for other disabilities as well so check these out too

  • Anonymous

    The information which you have given regarding the accessibility in the kitchen is very nice and also understanding. It will also help me as well as others for knowing the complete information regarding it. I am very much impressed by this.

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  • Sbonne2

    Thanks for your comment! Would love to hear about any related experiences you have from the design aspect, when/if they happen.

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    I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll

    love to read your next post too.

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  • Anonymous

    That is really true color of life that you can access everything from everywhere if you want. That is really cool. I like that concept and design and I can say that it is really means more for real seeker.
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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KOVKRDLW5ACSCTPMMPSVBK43RQ Daniel Ford

    Wheelchairs are very important tools for many individuals who cannot move around on their own. These great equipments have got to be maintained on a regular basis so they can be accessible on behalf of the folks in need. 
    North Vancouver Appliance Repair

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    Cosy and nice kitchens, very informative and generous with your sharing. thanks!
    Very useful and nice lens. Thanks.