Planning a Kitchen for Visually Impaired People

A kitchen is a mini factory and requires thoughtful functional planning. The kitchen is planned in the same way for a visually able person, but with a few additional design requirements and understanding. Visually impaired people are intuitive and adaptable to learn how to work/operate in an environment and have their own personal preferences to consider. The first layout decision is positioning the triangle of stove to sink to fridge zone, according to the available electrical and plumbing services. Each of these points on the work triangle require adjacent workspace.

The plan is an upside down U shape. On the left hand side is the cleaning zone shown in yellow. Top left to center including walk in pantry, fridge and vegatable drawers is the Zone for Consumables, shaded in green. Top right is the Preparation area and storage of non-consumables, shaded in magenta. Center right is the cooking zone with the stove and the pots in pale orange colour. The Dining counter is shaded in blue.
Plan showing functional zones

Kitchen design elements that will benefit people with low vision or visual challenges.

• Continuous counter-top height allows the user to slide bowls/pots/items along the surface to reduce handling mishaps.
• Counter material choices- Corian (Composite solid surfacing material) is the best choice, laminated surface is the next most suitable choice. Marble, or granite are the last option. People with low vision can be heavy handed and break a glass when putting it down. Corian is the least rigid of these products.

Accessibility

• Pull out drawers give easier access to their contents, as opposed to reaching into a dark cupboard.

• Accessing difficult corner cupboards is made easier with sliding wire baskets for a corner cabinet.

Image shows an open corner cupboard with the accessible basket attached to the open door. The corner cupboard is storing a set of plates, side plates soup bowls, pudding bowls. White coloured crockery on a dark grey solid base and wire sides.
Corner Unit with Accessible Wire Baskets https://leroymerlin.co.za/2bskt-c

• Pull out shelves come in many forms and applications.

  • Using a black backing board and shelf will provide a colour contrast in to white crockery.
Plan is an upside down U shape. Staring at bottom left of plan Household cleaning cupboard, cleaning materials in a wall cupboard,dishwasher, sink with recycling bins below, corner pantry walk in cupboard. Top of U, wine rack, opening for fridge with storage cupboard above, below countert top cupboards and work prep space ,tray cupboard, vegetable drawers, pull out storage drawers, corner cupboard with open shelf units on both corner walls. On the right hand side of U shape after corner cupboard pullout spice drawer, stove, pull out pot drawers, set of drawers for utensils. The dining counter is attached to the bottom right of the u shape, with an open backed shelf unit suspended above the dining area.
Kitchen Plan

Hinges

• Including self-closing hinges wherever possible will increase safety. Avoid soft touch opening mechanism as the motion from pets can cause kitchen cupboard doors to open.
• Be aware of wall hung cupboards with side hung doors. If left open, these doors are unseen hazard to people with low vision. There are more suitable hinges, for example the Aero wing by Roco, which is a lift-up flap and stay support door hinge that can be used on wall hung cupboards and remove this hazard.

Sink
It is recommended to install a deep pot sink for cleaning dishes as water spillage during washing up is problematic. Water can be better contained for a person with low vision if the sink is deeper. The average depth of a standard sink bowl is 157mm and for deep pot sink up to 200mm in depth.

Electrical layout
• It is advisable to install double electrical outlets above the kitchen counter, as a double plug is cheaper to install than two separate single outlets.
• Locate the plug for the fridge in a position that allows for easy access when cleaning or defrosting the fridge.
• Accentuate the position of electrical outlets with a contrasting colour border.

Lighting
• The value of a flexible kitchen lighting design that meets the needs of all people using it cannot be emphasised enough. Also remember the lighting in the pantry and in other dark places (Light in dark places, 23 April 2020).

The image shows a dark grey wooden floor. Medium grey kick plate below cupboards. white cupboards with black handles. Grey textured drawer fronts for vegetable drawers and pot drawers. Black counter top. Black , open backed shelves on the wall and above the eating area. White ceiling. Above the preparation area there are height adjustable lights. Below the wall hung cupboards area under counter lights to illuminate the counter top.
Kitchen view with cool blue green wall colour

Colour
• The use of colour is critical to achieve the highest functionality and ease of use for the visually impaired person. Contrast in the light reflectance value is key (Quantifying contrast in colour, 20 May 2020 and This is it-Low Vision colour contrast schemes based on light reflectance value, 23 July 2020). Using the properties of a colour to assist with functionality of an environment is more important than the aesthetic value of the interior. This is the challenge designers are tasked with; to combine all needs of the visually impaired client, the manipulation of needs, services, materials, colours, and the creation of the final product.

Thank you to the Cupboard Consultancy (Johannesburg, South Africa) for assistance with the kitchen plan and elevation http://www.cupboardconsultancy.com. +

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