Meticulous planning is the order of the day when designing a kitchen for the seated chef. Every centimeter/inch counts. First, residential kitchens have the same interchangeable, functional zones: preparation, cooking, consumables, cleaning, and dining. An allowance for sufficient passage space and wheelchair turning circles must be made (Turning Circles for Wheelchair, 5 November 2020 and Ramps with Landings, 19 November 2020). When space is limited, options may require a trade-off between the most important task and storage. The designer needs to fully understand the functionality of the kitchen and all individual or family needs.
Kitchen design elements to benefit people in wheelchairs:
• Correct ergonomic height of counters, between 720 and 860mm.
• Space for knees and toes in a recess underneath the counters.
• Kickplate height and depth to be increased in size for the chef’s feet and the footrest of the wheelchair. The depth of the counter must be increased from 600mm to 760mm. Continuous, uncluttered counters allow for pots, dishes, and ingredients to be passed along the surface rather than carried on the chef’s lap.
• Additional pull-out work surfaces improve usability.
• Accessible cupboards, pull-out shelves, pull-down shelves (Kitchen for Seeing Hands, 10 September 2020 and Planning a Kitchen for Visually Impaired People, 24 September 2020) are very helpful in achieving an accessible kitchen. Electric lifting and lowering systems allow wall cupboards to be lowered to a convenient level, where stored goods can be easily accessed.
• A full recess is required below the sink and hob/cooktops for wheelchairs or walkers. A heat absorbent material below sink and hob is needed to stop heat transfer or burning of the user. Pipes must be insulated. Height adjustable sinks allow for all residents to wash dishes at a comfortable height.
• Consider the type of controls on appliances, either tactile dials or touch pad operation are best.
• A lever kitchen tap/faucet to be placed on the side of the sink for ease of use.
• An oven with a side hinged door allows the seated chef to get closer to the opening.
• Store often used items in accessible places.
• A fridge and freezer unit with drawers at the bottom is more accessible.
• For wheelchair accessibility, position electrical outlets on walls from 380mm to 1200mm above floor level. Note: an electrical outlet can be positioned at the front edge of a counter.
• A rolling kitchen unit that holds essential utensils and ingredients can assist the chef in the kitchen and provides an additional workspace.
One of the aims of this blog is to spread awareness of people with disabilities and how they achieve and excel in daily life. I found these stories inspiring and I hope you will too.