As we age, many seniors are deciding that they want to be able to live in their own homes for as long as possible. Changing physical needs, however, make it necessary to examine the house carefully in order to ensure that it meets all the characteristics needed in order for you to remain there. The kitchenis the cause of over 14% of elderly home accidents and is filled with potential hazards that could make living at home difficult. Wondering whether or not your kitchen is accessible for Aging In Place? Take a look at some of these suggestions and guidelines recommended by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Clearance Throughout the Kitchen
If you're going to use your kitchen from a wheelchair, you need to be able to maneuver through the room. According to the ADA, there the clearance required depends on the shape of the kitchen. Pass-through kitchens with two entrances require a minimum of 40 inches of space in order for a wheelchair to move through smoothly. U-shaped kitchens, with a single entrance and cabinets or work surfaces on three sides of the room, require 60 inches of clearance. A minimum clear floor space of 30 inches by 48 inches is necessary in order to allow a wheelchair to move smoothly in any room.
Countertops and Sinks
When you're sitting in a wheelchair, normal countertops may suddenly feel as though they are decidedly out of reach. According to ADA regulations, at least one work surface in the room should be a maximum of 34 inches above the floor in order to permit wheelchair-bound individuals to easily work on the countertop. If your kitchen will be used by able-bodied individuals on a regular basis, you may find it easier to install an adjustable countertop that can be raised and lowered according to the needs of the person using it. You should also note that adjustable countertops can be brought lower than many standard countertop options, allowing you to work closer to your lap than would otherwise be possible. Countertops designed for work from a wheelchair should have open space beneath that is easily accessible, since you'll probably want to be able to tuck your legs or the bulk of the chair underneath.
Note that sinks should be placed at the same height for easy accessibility. Placing sinks at 31 inches will make it easier to reach the entire surface of the sink, including the faucet and sprayer, with ease. Please note that you will need 27 inches of clearance beneath the sink for your knees.
Ovens, Stoves, and Cooking Tools
When you're in a wheelchair, cooking brings with it unique challenges. A wall mounted oven or one that is set in the cabinet is much better for individuals in a wheelchair than a standard option, since it can be positioned to open at a height that is convenient for their needs and won't require them to contort themselves simply to take items in and out of the oven. This is particularly beneficial as shaky hands make it harder to keep a grip on this important dishes.
Chances are, you have a limited amount of counter space to work with in your kitchen. Even if you've completely redesigned your kitchen so that you can reach all of your counters from your wheelchair, you don't want to clutter them up with every appliance in the kitchen! Pull-out mechanisms can make for easy appliance use while still making it simple to tuck them away again when you're finished with your food preparation.
When you're cooking from a wheelchair, storage suddenly becomes a more serious concern. If you want your kitchen to be fully accessible, it's important to note that items need to be stored where they can be reached easily from the wheelchair. In general, that means that your storage must be kept between 15 and 48 inches from the ground, assuming that your reach is unobstructed. It is expected that an obstruction of no more than ten inches will be placed in your kitchen to allow you freedom of access to the items in storage.
If you're short on storage in your kitchen and trying to make it accessible, there are several things you can do to make it easier. First, be sure that items that are used most frequently are more easily accessible than those that aren't. For example, that tea set that only comes out once or twice a year for tea with the grandkids can be placed in a higher cabinet, while the pots and pans you cook with on a daily basis should be well within your reach. Next, reduce the number of items you use in your kitchen on a regular basis. Keep appliances that have multiple purposes out where they can be accessed easily and do without those intended only for very specific purposes.
Be Proactive and Have Fun
Redesigning your kitchen to be wheelchair accessible may take some effort, but it will also make it possible for you to live in your home much longer than you might have been able to otherwise, plus it can be fun! By taking steps to prepare your home for your future needs, you'll discover that you're not only gaining peace of mind, but also getting that new-kitchen-smell. Keep in mind that organizing your kitchen before and after a remodel may be a process. It will take time to discover what items you really need to be easily accessible and which ones you can live without--but with time, you'll start to function just as efficiently in your accessible kitchen as you did before. If you're looking for help in any of these areas, don't hesitate to reach out for a Free Home Accessibility Assessment from one of our Certified Aging In Place Specialists (CAPS).