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The Accessible Home: 15 Tips for Making Your Kitchen More Accessible

Home Accessibility
Wheelchair User

The Accessible Home:
15 Tips for Making Your Kitchen More Accessible

1. Accessibility Guidelines

A wheelchair needs a minimum 5-foot radius to turn around; to accommodate a wheelchair, scooter, or walker, kitchen aisles should be 46-48" wide; keep most things within reach of someone in a seated position — within 24" to the front or side and between 12" and 52" high.

2. Use Contrasting Color to Signal Room/Use Changes

Add a contrasting border to delineate where the floor ends and the wall begins. Provide visual cues to work spaces by changing the color of the wood or tile in front of the sink and stove. Install dark counters and doors over lighter cabinets and floors. Color contrast helps older people or those with low vision see where the counter or cabinet ends and the floor begins.

3. Separate Your Stove and Oven

Instead of a traditional stove/oven combination, install a stovetop 30-32" high, with front mounted, child-safe controls, over an open cabinet that allows a minimum of 24" of knee space (high and wide) and mount a side-hinged wall oven 18" off the floor for easier and safer access no matter what your height.

4. Use a Side-By-Side Refrigerator

Having both the freezer and refrigerator section accessible from top to bottom is easier for everyone, even children, to access. Place the most frequently used items within easy reach in the shallow shelves on the door or in slide out baskets and drawers.

5. Choose a Drawer Style Dishwasher

Mount it higher (12 – 18" off the floor) so there is less stooping and bending required to load or unload it. Install a drawer underneath if you utilize the space underneath.

6. Place Frequently Used Appliances on Countertops

Microwave ovens, toasters, or blenders are much easier to use if they are at countertop height instead of over the stove or inside a cabinet. Cover them with decorative covers if you don’t like the look of the appliance sitting out or create an appliance “garage” with a retractable tambour door to hide them; kits are available on-line.

7. Install Full-Extension Drawers and Shelves in Base Cabinets

Lower cabinet areas are much more useable for everyone, if the items inside slide out to meet you rather than having to get down on your knees and crawl inside. Home improvement stores sell wire inserts to fit existing cabinets or for something sturdier consider custom drawers from companies such as Shelves That Slide.

8. Replace Any Round Pull Knobs with Large Handles

These can be opened with little effort by those with arthritic hands. To make an existing knob pull into a lever handle, secure a cane or furniture leg tip over the knob and insert a wooden dowel through the tip.

9. Create Colored or Raised Markings on Control Knobs

Use colored tapes, puffy paint, glue, or stick-on “bumps” to create raised markings for standard settings on appliances, faucets, and other frequently used items. A combination of color coding and raised tactile markings works best. Knobs that click will give auditory cues to their settings — one click is high, two is medium, etc.

10. Attach a Sonic Boom Alarm Clock with Bed Shaker

Attach to a lamp and you will not forget what you are cooking. The lamp flashes, the bed shaker pulses, and a 98 decibel audible alarm sounds. One or any combination will get the attention of someone who is Deaf, hard of hearing, or who tends to forget they were cooking. Available from Center for Communication, Hearing, and Deafness 10243 W. National Ave, West Allis, WI 53227; phone 414-541-5465/800-755-7994; VP 866-954-9435; TTY 414-604-7217.

11. Locate the Kitchen Sink at a 45 Degree Angle in the Corner of the Kitchen

Ideally with clear floor space below, low enough (30-32" from the floor) so the sink and faucet are within easy reach of someone who is seated. Mounting the faucet at the side makes it easier to reach for someone in a seated position, and for children.

12. Install No-Touch Motion Sensor Faucets

They turn on and off automatically either when you place your hands under the faucet. These faucets are nice for those who have trouble gripping and turning but also for those who tend to forget to turn the water off. Inexpensive adapters are readily available at home improvement stores or online that fit most existing faucets.

13. Install LED Task Lighting Under All Upper Cabinets

It will light the work space without shinning in your eyes. Consider a row of “chaser lights” around any peninsulas or islands so they can be easily seen in low light.

14. Place Frequently Used or Heavy Items in Lower Cabinets

Consider adding pullout landing boards or spring-assisted shelving to help raise heavy items.

15. Store Dishes Vertically Within Easy Reach

Instead of stacking heavy dishes, stand them on end. (Do the same with baking sheets and pans.) You can purchase cabinets with this feature or create your own by adding small dowels to existing cabinets. Inexpensive, ready-made inserts may be found at discount stores or mail order catalogs. To make access to dishes even easier, move them to a lower cabinet that is easier to reach and consider removing doors to this heavily used area.

For additional tips for making your kitchen more accessible, visit the Website of the University of Missouri – Extension and download their booklets:

For more tips and strategies for making your home safer and more accessible, pick up a copy of Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier by Shelley Peterman Schwarz at a library, bookstore, or on-line bookseller.

©2011 Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC         www.MakingLifeEasier.com
For reprint permission contact Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com

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