An accessible kitchen design is based equally on the functions required in the space and the capabilities of the user. These elements must work in harmony to provide a practical kitchen in which the disabled person will feel comfortable and self-sufficient. Kitchens require extensive design considerations as they involve plumbing, appliances, implements, countertops and, of course, food. A barrier-free kitchen should address these factors effectively for a space that not only eases food preparation tasks, but also gives the user the ability to gather with her family in the space, entertain and move around without difficulty.
Tape a piece of tracing paper over top of the existing kitchen floor plan. Trace over the outline with a pencil. Laying out the kitchen is the first step in the design process that will organise all the other necessary factors. "Accessible Home Design" offers three options for the layout: galley, U-shaped or L-shaped. The choice is based on all surrounding factors such as windows, doors and entries into other spaces. All kitchen design is based on the work triangle comprising the sink, the stove and the refrigerator. The reasoning behind this is organisation of space and accessibility to the areas most used in the kitchen. Wheelchair users will be most self-sufficient if they are able to move freely and reach everything they require with ease. The U-shaped layout may be most functional as it offers continuous counters and follows the work triangle. Draw a rough outline of the U-shaped layout. Use the same scale as noted on your floor plans. Measure the distance between the counters opposite one another to ensure there is enough room for the user to turn 360 degrees in his wheelchair comfortably.
Draw in the work triangle based on the stove, sink and refrigerator. The triangle follows the natural flow of work in typical kitchen scenarios for food preparation. Draw in the sink making a note for knee space below to ensure the user can wheel directly up to it. Keep the sink in the same place as previously to avoid costly plumbing renovations. Draw in a separate cooktop with a wall oven beside it. The cooktop will provide knee space, while a conventional stove would not. Ensure controls are located at the front or side to avoid dangerous heat exposure. Draw in a double-door refrigerator with doors that can swing all the way open for ease of use.
Make a note for the countertops to be built at a height suitable for the user. Measure the user from the floor up to 2 inches above her lap. This would be a suitable height for the countertops. The average height of a kitchen counter is 36 inches, while a wheelchair user would find a height between 29 and 34 inches more comfortable depending on her stature. Use one height for all countertops to maintain the continuity of the work sequence flow.
Draw a dashed line on the countertops that do not have knee space below them to represent storage. Storage that slides out will be easily accessible for wheelchair users as conventional kitchen counters above will be unreachable.
If the wheelchair user shares the kitchen with able-bodied people, do not lower all the countertops, but rather only the important ones around the work triangle. An accessible kitchen can prove to be uncomfortable for other users. In addition, if too many renovations are made for this type of accommodation, the possibility of resale becomes much more difficult unless selling to another wheelchair user.
Always obtain professional advice before beginning a remodel or renovation to ensure you are in adherence to fire safety regulations and building code.