Tips for All-Access Kitchens

Clean counter top

Clean Countertop

There’s plenty of moving about, reaching and lifting in any kitchen. In a kitchen designed for accessibility, all of these activities are much easier for everyone.

By: Patricia Moore

Design Accessible Kitchens
There’s plenty of moving about, reaching and lifting in any kitchen. In a kitchen designed for accessibility, however, all of these activities are much easier for everyone — from the fittest family member to the chef in a wheelchair.

To ensure that you can enjoy your kitchen for many years to come, make sure you include a design with plenty of lighting and easy-to-reach controls, features like touchless faucets with anti-scald technology, slip-resistant flooring, low or no thresholds on doorways and easily cleanable countertop surfaces such as granite, solid-surfacing or laminate. Other tips for enhancing your kitchen with universal design principles include:

Choose Slide-Out Storage
Slide-out wire baskets and other cabinetry solutions will increase accessibility for everyone. Easily organize your appliances, pots and pans, and more with convenient, clever accessories for your cabinets.

Today’s Benefit: Enjoy a clear, uncluttered kitchen with storage spaces that will make gourmet cooking fun. Staying organized is easy when there’s a designated space for everything, and busy families will appreciate the no-fuss approach to housekeeping. Drawer appliances installed below the counter make it easy for family members of all ages to load and unload dishwashers or cook food in the microwave without having to lift hot foods above their heads.

* Tomorrow’s Bonus: Reduce the need for bending and reaching with slide-out storage. Even family members with limited mobility will be able to reach items stored in the back of cabinets and enjoy the use of appliance drawers, minimizing the risk of injury.

Clear the Clutter
A clean, uncluttered floor plan will allow a person using a wheelchair the necessary clearance to maneuver in your kitchen. Instead of a fixed island, add a peninsula or a freestanding island that can be removed down the line to accommodate your changing needs.

* Today’s Benefit: A peninsula will give family members and guests a place where they can hang out while you cook without getting in the way. The open floor plan will give your kitchen a modern, airy look, creating a refreshing space for your family to gather.

* Tomorrow’s Bonus: Your kitchen will have no barriers to people with limited mobility, allowing them to enjoy preparing food for themselves well into advanced age.

Vary Counter Heights
One of the easiest ways to keep your kitchen functional for everyone in your family for years to come is to create workstations at several different heights. Creating counter spaces at standard height (36 inches), bar height (42 inches) and table height (30 inches) will create an environment where everyone can be comfortable.

* Today’s Benefit: Varying the heights of your countertops will make your kitchen a multi-functional space where family members of all ages can gather for food prep, snacking or working on homework.

* Tomorrow’s Bonus: As your needs change, your kitchen will have lots of options for sitting or standing comfortably at various counter heights.

Include a Desk in Your Design
If you have the space in your kitchen, build in a bill-paying desk using cabinet and counter material that will match the rest of your design.

* Today’s Benefit: Enjoy a convenient, organized space to pay bills, keep track of mail and conduct other business right in the heart of your home.

* Tomorrow’s Bonus: You will appreciate this workstation with open legroom underneath, allowing you to sit comfortably to prepare meals.

About the Author:
Moore is an internationally renowned gerontologist and designer, serving as a leading authority on consumer lifespan behaviors and requirements. For a period of three years (1979-1982), in an exceptional and daring experiment, Moore traveled throughout the United States and Canada disguised as women more than eighty years of age. With her body altered to simulate the normal sensory changes associated with aging, she was able to respond to people, products, and environments as an elder.

Follow this series of articles on Not Just the Kitchen for more tips on making your home All-Access.

Photo: Proper Hunt