Making Kitchens Wheelchair Compatible
Every independent person needs to be able to use a kitchen. With the baby boomer generation aging, the need to make kitchens accessible to those who need the assistance of a walker or wheelchair is growing by the day. Add those in the younger generations who have needed such assistance from childhood, and you can realize that a request for a wheelchair-friendly kitchen is far from outrageous. It may soon be considered just a normal lifestyle choice.
Working in a kitchen demands reaching, working at a counter and the ability to move around the space. For those who need to combine kitchens and wheelchairs, that means taking extra care when planning. Kitchen designers are aware of the needs for the usual size wheelchair. When planning to use specific kitchens and wheelchairs, be sure that you know the measurements of the specific wheelchair involved. There are apartments available that have been designed with kitchens and wheelchairs in mind.
Remember that a pre-built kitchen has used the measurements of a standard wheelchair and know whether your wheelchair is far off. The most important measurement is front-to-back including foot rests. This determines the turning radius that's needed. The standard turning radius is 60" or 25 square feet for a complete turn. An elevated leg will make that much larger. Standard measurements for kitchens and wheelchairs include countertops made to allow an armrest that is about 29" from the floor, knee spaces that are a minimum of 24" off the floor and 30" wide, entrances with an opening of 32", countertops between 28" and 34" with no more than 2" for the thickness of the counter. The area under the sink should have hot water pipes insulated for burn prevention.
In standard kitchen with wheelchair planning, the sink is only five to six and a half inches deep with the drain at the back to afford more knee space. The faucet is usually either a loop or single lever. Cabinets are designed for easy access and any drawers or doors should need no more than five pounds of exertion to open and close. Light switches are lower and outlets higher than in other kitchens. Several companies offer entire lines of products that can help to customize cabinets for use in a wheelchair. The wall oven and microwave should be installed about 31" from the floor. The dishwasher should be raised and extra six to eight inches and placed where it will be accessible from either side. Today's attitude of independence and accessibility has made the task of combining kitchens and wheelchairs much easier.