15 Oct 10 Tips for creating the ideal accessible kitchen
Designing a kitchen for someone with specific needs can often seem a daunting task when you’re in the first stages of planning. However, if you plan the design around the needs of the user rather than the space itself, creating a kitchen that is accessible for all users can be easier than you may first think.
As one of Lancashire’s leading providers of bespoke German kitchens, we’ve created kitchens for nearly every requirement and so have a range of techniques to ensure that your new kitchen is perfect for everyone, no matter what disabilities family members may have. To help give you a feel for these techniques and how you can plan for the perfect accessible kitchen, we’ve taken a look at 10 key areas to consider.
1. Making the most of the space
In most cases, kitchens up and down the country are designed around the standard working triangle principle, linking the oven, sink and fridge in a triangular shape. However, with an accessible kitchen it’s important to work in a linear fashion to ensure that moving between important sections of the kitchen is as easy as possible. For instance, we’d always make sure that the kitchen is setup so that impaired users would never have the need to move hot or heavy objects away from the worktop, or wouldn’t have to cross the kitchen to get items out of the oven. Everything should be within arms reach and should be available with the least disruption possible.
2. Surface height
Before you consider any part of the kitchen it’s important to understand if your kitchen is going to be used by wheelchair users as well as the rest of the family. If it is then we’d recommend the installation of Rise and Fall units so that the kitchen work surface can be altered to suit the user. However, if it’s just being used by wheelchair users or individuals with height concerns then many of today’s cabinet solutions are available as a lower height option to ensure easy accessibility and less overstretching.
3. Location of appliances
Whilst it’s important to make sure that must use appliances are easy to access, it’s also essential that potentially hazardous items are inaccessible to those with a disability. This may include putting the oven underneath a counter or making sure that hob controls are away from the top of the hob itself.
As one of the most hazardous areas of the home, the kitchen is a common place for accidents to happen. Therefore within an accessible kitchen it’s essential that you carry out a risk assessment, making sure that you minimise the potential risk for injuries. This may include the reduction moving heavy loads, reducing potential trip or slip hazards and making sure that all drawers have strong runners so that they can be pulled from a low position. We’d also recommend integrating a Sure Stop switch to guarantee that disabled users can easily switch-off the mains water supply in the event of a leak.
5. Positioning your Oven
With any area of the kitchen it’s essential that ovens are positioned correctly, making sure that the oven has a fold away door for disabled users so that it doesn’t restrict wheelchair movement. It’s also important that the oven and hob are close to nearby worktops of the same level to ensure that users don’t have to lift or move heavy / hot items, and can use the full environment as easily as possible.
Just like the oven, it’s essential that sinks are installed at the correct height and location to avoid any spillages or heavy objects being dropped. Whilst many sinks can now be installed into a Rise and Fall unit, we’d simply recommend adjusting the height of the sink and the surrounding area so that wheelchair users can easily use it when required.
7. Wall units
In most accessible kitchen we’d always recommend using standard lower-level cabinets and appliances rather than wall units, ensuring the whole of the kitchen is accessible and users don’t have to reach places that are too far away. However, with the introduction of Rise and Fall cabinets you can introduce wall units and cupboards that can be moved closer to the user when required, ensuring your kitchen has the best of both worlds.
8. Cupboard space optimised
Because the average accessible kitchen has a slight reduction in usable cupboard space, we find it is essential to maximise every available inch of drawers, cabinets and shelving to kept the kitchen neat and tidy. Using baskets, compartments and pull down units will also maximise the space you have in your cupboards, and we’d always introduce more shelves within a unit to avoid the height of them being too large and to stop over-stacking.
9. Access to cupboards
With an accessible kitchen it’s important to prevent overreaching or unnecessary bending. Whilst this can be avoided with the previously discussed Rise and Fall cabinets, we’d also recommend adapting the height of your cupboards for the user so that they are easy to reach. In addition to this, make sure that there is enough space between cabinets to allow wheelchairs to move around freely without bumping into units.
The final areas we’d recommend looking into is the taps and handles within your kitchen. Making sure you have easy to use lever taps which are simple to operate and mounted in the perfect position on the sink is vital. We’d also recommend having handles at the appropriate height and would avoid handles that don’t have a rounded edge, as this can create injury risks.
We hope that this has given you some helpful hints for how you can create a dynamic and accessible kitchen. However, should you require further help in planning your new accessible kitchen then please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01484 431 089.