Key considerations: circulation throughout, ability to reach sink, stove, and fridge; ability to access drawer and cabinet contents
Typical modifications: lowering sections of countertop, relocating or lowering sink, installing pull-out or pull-down hardware on drawers and cabinets
Layout Back to Top
Countertops and Cabinets Back to Top
The preferred depth of vanity counter tops and cabinets is 24” deep.
There are many cabinet modifications available on the market, including pull-out drawers within cabinets and pull-down cabinets.
Pull-out or pull-down options maximize accessibility compared with traditional cabinets.
Ensure drawers can fully extend and cabinets utilize pull-out drawers.
The best counter height for wheelchair users is 30” (no more than 34”). Optimally, at least two counter heights are used (some sections 30” above the floor and others 36”). This permits all members of the household to use the space conveniently.
You can also accomplish this flexibility by using adjustable counters that enable sections of the counter top to be raised or lowered depending on the user.
Use pull hardware without sharp edges (and as opposed to knobs) to ensure all users can open drawers and cabinets comfortably.
Rounded edges and corners are recommended for counters.
Another practical solution is the use of pull-out work surfaces, such as a cutting board, installed at a suitable height.
Use under-cabinet lighting to illuminate kitchen surface areas, and choose non-reflective surfaces to minimize glare.
Long counters enable users to slide pots or other items to avoid having to carry them.
Positioning electrical outlets under the counter increases accessibility. Recessed outlets that account for plug depth (so the plugs do not protrude in front of the counter) increase kitchen circulation.
A trolley cart can be helpful in moving items from one area of the kitchen to another. Plan for a space where it can be kept out of the way when not in use.
Fridges Back to Top
The variety of fridge arrangements provides you with many options (e.g. single door versus double door, freezer below versus above versus beside). A fridge with double doors and a bottom freezer is usually the most accessible for a wheelchair user.
You can adjust the overall fridge height (and, accordingly, the shelf heights within the fridge) by using an additional base or plinth underneath the fridge. This raises the height of the fridge above the floor. Raising the fridge higher on a wooden base may bring more of the shelving within the fridge into a reachable area. Most fridges can be raised up to 18”.
You will benefit from locating fridges along straight runs of counter, as this permits fridge doors to swing past 90 degrees, improving accessibility. A location next to a perpendicular wall can impede the door swing. Another option is to ensure there is 6” of space between the fridge and perpendicular wall.
Ensure there is clear counter space next to the fridge so there is room within reach where you can place items you remove.
Sinks Back to Top
Use extra shallow sinks, 7-10” deep, and located 32”-34” from sink rim to floor with clear knee space below
Ensure the pipes below the sink are insulated or paneled over to avoid burns.
Consider a faucet over the stove, as this allows for easy pot filling and avoids the need to transport heavy pots
Use pull-down sprayer faucets and single lever handles (that control both flow and temperature) – they’re the easiest to use.
Cooking Appliances Back to Top
Certain stovetop options can improve accessibility while also reducing danger. Using two side-by-side burners provides maximum access and avoids the need to reach across burners. Induction burners are also preferable, as they have no flammable surfaces. Locate cook surfaces 32”-34” above the finished floors, and ensure controls are located on the front of the cook surface. Provide heat-protected knee-space below the stovetop.
Choose an accessible oven with a side-opening door 16”-34” above the finished floor. A heat-resistant pull-out shelf below the oven door or the counter next to the oven provides a safe place for hot items and eliminates the need to carry them elsewhere.
Toaster ovens and microwaves are both convenient and safe ways to heat items. Likewise, a hot water dispenser for making hot drinks is safer than handling a stovetop or electric kettle.