Shake and bake

For people with disabilities to be able to toss a salad or concoct a casserole, an accessible kitchen is of utmost importance. Anlerie de Wet dons her apron.

It will cost money and time, but it will be well worth it when the cake is served with a smile at the end of the day. Here are some tips for making the kitchen a workable space.

Adjustable work and cooking tops (materials)

This is the most important change to be made to enable wheelchair users to get things done in the kitchen. The average work and cooking-top designs are about 85 cm from the floor, often with storage space underneath.

For people with disabilities to work with ease, work and cooking tops need to be lowered to between 70 and 75 cm from the floor, with no storage beneath.

Although people with disabilities need to be catered for, the kitchen should not be uncomfortable for the family members with no disabilities either. The best solution is to install adjustable work and cooking tops. These can then be set with a lever to heights between 70 cm and 85 cm from the floor.

Make way for feet

To avoid wheelchair users hitting their toes against the cabinet while using an appliance or reaching for something from the storage space, toe-kicks should be installed throughout the kitchen. Toe-kicks are recess spaces at the bottom of a base cabinet that provides moving space for your feet when you’re working at the counter, and they help prevent the loss of balance.

Many modern kitchens have toe-kicks, but they aren’t always high enough to accommodate wheelchair users, whose feet are elevated. It’s a good idea to measure the height of their feet before the toe-kicks are installed. The top edge of the toe-kicks should not be lower than 20 cm from the floor.

Accessible appliances and storage

Refrigerator and cabinet doors usually open to the side; while dishwasher and oven doors usually open downwards, which makes it difficult for mobility-impaired people to access food and containers.

It’s therefore necessary to revamp the cabinets and order a custom-made fridge and dishwasher where the doors slide outwards. Basically the content of the cabinets and appliances will work like drawers. With this design, goods in the fridge, the dishwasher and kitchen cabinets are easily reachable. The dishwasher and fridge also need to be elevated so that wheelchair users don’t have to bend too far to reach what they want.

Another consideration is the oven. People with disabilities need to be able to get hot cooked and baked goods out of the oven without burning or injuring themselves. Ideally, therefore, the oven should be approximately 76 cm from the floor
so that anything inside it can be viewed at eye-level. It should have a hinged door that opens 180
degrees to the side, which should be opposite the work top.

Making the kitchen accessible will make life simpler and safer. So, redesign the kitchen and get the master chefs on their way!

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