Making Your Kitchen More Accessible

If you are building or renovating a kitchen, this can offer an opportunity to make it more functional and accessible. For wheelchair users, accessibility requirements that you establish before design begins will guide decisions related to counter arrangements and appliance selection. For example, if a wheelchair user resides alone and cooks for him- or herself, the kitchen layout can respond exclusively to the user's needs and preferences. On the other hand, if the wheelchair user lives with family members who do not have a disability, the arrangement should also respond to their needs. If future home resale is important, or if there are project budget limitations, homeowners may elect not to make kitchen modifications that are too customized or too expensive.

Whichever course you select, however, the kitchen plan should provide adequate wheelchair maneuvering clearances throughout.

Kitchen work sequences can be accommodated efficiently in several counter arrangements including U-shaped, L-shaped, and galley plans. Kitchens with island counters are variations of these basic arrangements. Each option offers both advantages and disadvantages for accessibility. The U-shaped kitchen, for example, is efficient for wheelchair users because the countertop surfaces are continuous. This allows items to be slid, rather than carried, between workstations. It is difficult for wheelchair users to move items between unconnected counters unless they have a lapboard on which to carry them. In this aspect, the galley kitchen's arrangement is perhaps the least appropriate. On the other hand, the two inside corners in U-shaped counters are difficult to reach when seated in a wheelchair. Galley kitchens do not have inside corners, so all counter space is easily accessible. Since none of the basic configurations is ideal, select the counter arrangement that is the best fit for your home.

Appliances should be carefully selected and located within your kitchen plan. Often, appliance models that the homeowner selects determine proper installation locations. A side-by-side model refrigerator/ freezer, for example, should be located to accommodate both door swings. On the other hand, top or bottom freezer models have a single door swing, so clearance is only required on one side.

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