"The kitchen is the heart of the home"
The kitchen is often referred to as the “center” of a home. Aside from sleep time in the bedroom, the kitchen is the place where a majority of time is spent by homeowners and family/friends. The location of the kitchen should be on the first/ground level floor and be easily accessible from at least two entryways/exits of the home. Ideally, there should be no doors or thresholds (open concept) separating the kitchen from other rooms of the house and if there are doorways they should have minimal thresholds and the doors should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
A lot of work gets done in a kitchen on a daily basis and proper space utilization is key to promoting safety and effectiveness for individuals. Having enough room to safely maneuver between different appliances is important for someone using a walker, wheelchair or has balance issues. Having “hot-spot” areas on the countertops allows individuals to easily locate hot items and know exactly where they can and cannot be placed. Having places to prepare foods from a sitting position alleviates fatigue. Having upper cabinets is places where the homeowner can reach them and their contents without straining or climbing is a very important safety consideration.
Lighting and Electrical
Lighting in a kitchen is not only an important consideration for food preparation activities, it is also important for safety as well. Proper lighting allows an individual to see potential dangers like open flames, slippery surfaces and sharp instruments. Having accessible electrical outlets allows an individual to easily plug in appliances without reaching over things. Large, safe and lower placement of light switches make the kitchen a safer, more comfortable place.
Non-slip flooring is essential in a kitchen where spills and messes occur on a regular basis. Flooring choice should be easily cleanable, for hygienic reasons. It should also be visually different from the adjoining rooms so individuals with poor eyesight can more easily differentiate between spaces. Throw rugs and any type of carpet are not recommended in a kitchen.
The most important factor when looking at appliances for a kitchen is ease of use. Look at the control panel buttons and knobs and determine if they are easily seen, reached, and usable. Also, determine if they are located in a place where the individual has to reach over or across hot areas and could possibly get burned. Determine how easy it is for an individual to open, close, load, unload, turn on, off, etc. all existing appliances.
Another important factor concerning appliances is their location throughout the kitchen. Determine if an individual with poor mobility, dexterity, eyesight, etc. can easily move from one appliance to the other and can operate them with a minimum of effort or strain. Oftentimes, individuals become fatigued while standing and moving around a kitchen so determine if roll-under work-stations located throughout the space would benefit an individual.
Reaching and straining to get items out of cabinets often leads to falls and injuries in the kitchen. Look at the height of the existing upper cabinets and determine if lowering those cabinets would make life easier for an individual. If lowering is not an option, look into pull out shelving systems that help bring items within a manageable reach. Also, determine if the pulls and handles on the cabinetry is functional for someone with arthritis or poor hand mobility. If the individual uses a wheelchair or gets fatigued while standing, determine appropriate places for sit-down workstations throughout the kitchen. Oftentimes a combination of pull-out shelving for the upper cabinets and roll-under workstations for base cabinets creates a safe and functional area for anyone in the kitchen.