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Converting to an Accessible Kitchen

There are more than 30 million Americans that use wheelchairs and millions more that have other mobility issues. Those numbers are only going to increase as the population ages. Without an accessible kitchen, this can pose a number of issues.

A proper Aging in Place home done right can bring new and current styles and amenities simultaneously with accessibility and comfort, leaving your home looking like the cover of Coastal Living magazine.

A.I.P. is sooo much more than wheelchair friendly! Aging in Place, sometimes called Universal Design, addresses discomforts and restricted capabilities of every kind. It can be something as simple as a more ergonomically comfortable cabinet door handle. You might also include a multi-height countertop. It can even be shade variated cabinets for the visually impaired.

Even for homeowners not facing that challenge today, it makes sense to prepare your house for older visitors or your own future needs. An accessible home will allow you to live in it longer by increasing safety and independence.

C.O.D. Home Services owner Mark Merrell is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and is trained in the unique requirements of preparing a home for an aging population.

There are several improvements a homeowner can make to a kitchen to improve accessibility.

Doors and Entry

A wide entry to the kitchen will provide enough clearance for a wheelchair or walker. An open passageway is the easiest way to make entry into the kitchen. However, if there are doors separating the space, swing-clear hinges will make traveling through the doorway easier. (Swing-clear hinges are hinges that swing the door completely clear of the opening.) Doors should be fitted with lever-style handles versus doorknobs for ease of gripping and opening.

Layout and Flooring

The overall layout of the kitchen also needs to keep these dimensions in mind. There must be ample clearance around islands, countertops and appliances. To provide enough space for a wheelchair, a pass-through kitchen should have 40-inch clearance, while a U-shaped kitchen should have 60 inches.

Be sure to choose flooring that is low maintenance, easy to clean and slip-resistant, such as vinyl.

Accessible sink and countertops in the kitchen

Countertops

Generally speaking, accessible kitchen countertops should be installed at a 34-inch height. However, it is best to customize that for your own personal needs as heights vary. For your family, countertops of multiple different heights may be appropriate.

The accessible countertop should have at least 30 inches of workspace. Avoid putting cabinets under the accessible surfaces in order to allow clearance for wheelchairs.

Sinks

Like countertops, accessible kitchen sinks need to have an open space beneath them. Clearance should be at least 27 inches high and 8 inches deep. To help with that depth clearance, position drains at the rear of the sink, keeping pipes from blocking wheelchair access.

Touch-control and voice-activated faucets continue to come down in price and will make the sink easier to operate than having to grip a handle.

Storage

If they’re in the budget, electric adjustable cabinets will make the storage accessible to all residents and guests at varying heights. Otherwise, cabinets should be placed at the appropriate heights to be reachable for your needs. Commonly used items should be placed where they are easily reachable. Roll-out shelves also make it easier to access pots, pans and other items.

Think about hardware choices as well. Loops or long handles on cabinets and drawers are easier to grip than traditional knobs, allowing easier access.

Add plenty of storage to accessible kitchens

Appliances

Appliances also need to be placed to allow for accessibility. If possible, install a separate oven and cooktop in order to allow space under the range. Place wall ovens at varying heights for maximum use. Avoid over-range microwaves in favor of counter height ones or lower wall-mounted options.

Refrigerators and dishwashers should also be selected that have easily reachable controls. Dishwasher drawers or undercounter refrigerators are also available options. It’s best to try out various appliances to see what works best for your family.

Time to work on upgrading your kitchen? C.O.D. Home Services, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, is ready to help you prepare your home for the future. Contact us today to discuss your remodeling needs!

Photos credits: Elkay Dart Canyon 2 (Photo courtesy of Elkay); Kraftmaid universal design (Photo courtesy of KraftMaid); Whirlpool ADA range (photo courtesy of Whirlpool)

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