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Kitchens for Disabled People

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 9 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Kitchen Disabled Aids Appliances Design

There are an increasing number of products and kitchen fitting companies who cater for the disabled market. It's a growing market. Healthcare improves daily, we are living longer all the time and we want to live independent lives.

But you can't generalise about disability – almost every single case is different. This means a kitchen that can cater for any customer's disability nearly always has to be customised around their needs. And unfortunately that nearly always means it's more expensive.

General Purpose Aids

There are aids that can be useful to nearly everyone though. when making a kitchen accessible for all. For example, long handled taps with a short-throw action (i.e. they only need a small turn to open or close them) are very useful for people with restricted movement in their arms and hands, arthritis, for example.

But they are just as useful for people who have full movement in their upper body but use wheelchairs, simply because the taps are easier to reach and operate from a sitting position. As demand increases for products like these the economies of scale kick in and they will become cheaper.

Kitchen Layout Design

When it comes down to design the kitchen layout it's definitely time for bespoke design. Some people might need room for a wheelchair and lowered worktops, comfortable for use at a seated height. There are also worktops that slide in and out or pivot, so that they are out of the way when not needed.

Other people might need more handles around the kitchen and islands of kitchen units so that support is close to hand all the time. This is likely to be at odds with a wheelchair friendly layout. Quite often a U-shaped layout, long continuous runs of worktop with inset sink and hob, works well for many disabled people. The major benefit is that items can be slid from sink to worktop to hob without having to be lifted a great deal.

Can You Modify an Existing Layout?

Of course work like this is much easier if you are gutting the kitchen and starting again but many people can't afford to do that. You might also need to have a kitchen that works well for a disabled person but allows other non-disabled members of the family to use it too.

The problem is that an existing kitchen is not really designed to be modified. Rather than getting a kitchen fitter in to do the work you might be better off employing a local carpenter or handyman. They are more likely to be able to convert fittings to match your needs, whereas a kitchen fitter will want to work within the confines of the existing units.

Don't Forget Appliances

Finally think about the placement of all the different appliances and the way their doors open. Switching to a top-loading washing machine, for example, might avoid nasty surprises when the door of a front-loader is left open.

All dishwashers and ovens all have hinged doors that lower from the top so there's not much that you can do about those. But try to pick their positions so that they are least out of the way of the places where someone has to go back and forth a lot. The fridge, sink and cooker are the most frequently visited places in the kitchen so try to stop that triangle being interrupted by appliances.

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