You may need to remodel to make an accessible kitchen that is usable by a family member who is confined to a wheelchair or otherwise limited in movement. Make this project seem less overwhelming by dividing it into small sections.
To begin, think about the person or people the new kitchen will be designed to accommodate. Consider the person's age as well as the severity of his disability. Can he reach up above his shoulder? Can he move his fingers, like to operate a light switch or faucet handle?
If the person likes to cook, think about the space you have in the kitchen and the way things are stored. You may need to relocate pots and pans to lower cabinets and move seldom-used items like a bread maker or wok to a higher shelf.
1. Rethink Cabinets
Cabinets are going to be a major change. Determine which cabinets are going to have to be moved, or even taken out for access so that a wheelchair can be brought up to the counter.
Think about adding features like pull-out shelves and rotary-type storage to make the items more accessible. Even simply rearranging some of the items in the cabinets can help with handicap accessibility.
2. Adjust Countertops
Most countertops are at a height of 32 inches to 36 inches. This is going to be too high for someone in a wheelchair to use comfortably. You can add in drop leaf type countertops, or just lower them all the way around. If you have a kitchen island, you may want to remove it entirely or rebuild it to a height the person with the handicap can use easily.
3. Change Electrical Systems
Rearrange the outlets and light switches to a proper height and configuration so that the person can plug-in appliances, turn on lights, and operate exhaust fans.
4. Place Appliances in Easy to Use Positions
Store lightweight countertop appliances in easily reachable areas so they can be used when needed. It would be good to be able to keep it in the open, but if this is not possible, then a pull-out drawer in a cabinet will work.
Heavier appliances like microwaves and mixing machines should be kept in a stationary position at a level a person in a wheelchair can easily reach.
5. Keep Most Used Food Low
Spend some time rearranging the refrigerator to keep the most-used food items on the lowest shelves. If possible, invest in a French door refrigerator that has a freezer on the bottom.
Canned goods, cereals, and other items should also be kept on lower shelves in a pantry or in slide-out shelves in lower cabinets.
6. Install Sink in Lower Countertops
While you are lowering some of the countertops, consider installing a new sink. A regular sink may be too high and set too far back for a person to reach, but a pull-out or pull-down faucet may enable him to fill his own glass, clean up or even help wash dishes.
Make sure to leave room beneath the sink for the wheelchair to be able to slide under. Cushion all pipes and corners so the person will not bang his legs and knees.