Designing a kitchen for people with restricted movement can be a challenge, but there are many useful adaptations and aids which can make a big difference. The kitchen is often the place at the heart of the home, where families gather to chat and eat, as well as prepare food, so it is important for it to be a user-friendly space.
Here is a guide to a range of aids, adjustments and appliances that may help elderly and non-ambulant people to prepare food for themselves independently at home, or just enjoy using the kitchen as a safe shared space.
Adjustable height worktops
In homes of multiple occupants with a mixed range of mobility, adjustable height worktops, which can be automatically moved up or down to a comfortable height for the user, are an effective way to make the kitchen inclusive to all users. If the sole occupier is a wheelchair user it may be more practical to have the worktops at a fixed lower height.
Where possible, the user should be able to move easily between the sink, hob, and kettle, to avoid them having to carry hot food and boiling water to and fro. Ideally, there should be ample clear floorspace for ease of movement. The oven and hob should always have an area of clear worktop next to it, which is made from a durable and heatproof material.
Make use of levers and bars
Knobs can be hard be people of restricted movement to grip and turn, so where possible replace them with levers, bars, or touch sensitive devices. This could mean fitting sensor taps, and cupboard handles that can be manipulated with a whole hand, rather than just the fingers.
Ovens with sliding doors and pull-out shelves underneath are very useful to prevent the user having to reach inside the oven.
Pull-out shelves and baskets are an effective solution for people with limited movement, because they allow them to easily access the contents without bending. Where possible, sorted items should be placed where there is no need for stretching or kneeling. Pull out floor to ceiling larder cupboard help to make effective use of space.
Some people find it useful to hang their cooking utensils from hooks around the walls, much as you used to find in Victorian kitchens, so they don’t need to open drawers and cupboards to access them. This also cuts down on storage space, which can be limited because of the need to leave clearance for a wheelchair under the countertops.
The kitchen should be well lit with overhead lights, task lights, and accent lights. The fittings and appliances should be chosen in a strong contrasting colour to their backgrounds, to help partially sighted people identify them.
Accessible kitchens should always be fitted with smoke detectors in all circumstances, but particularly if the user has impaired sight. Flood alarms should also be fitted to alert the user to overflowing water.
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