Recipes for Creating Accessible & Successful Kitchens

Case Study: Environmental Access Extras

John Bixenman, Accessible Systems, Inc., Littleton, Colo., says that revamping kitchens for accessibility requires attention to the specific needs of the user.

"You really need to pay attention to (whether) maybe they have a stronger right arm," says Bixenman. "Therefore, I might set the oven location to where they can use their right arm more than left arm. (A) work triangle in basic kitchen design is still in play. Even more so as you need to keep things close with plenty of places to set things to make the transfers needed to get to the next work triangle.

"Roll-under sinks are critical. We have done a few, and it was very specific to the user. How deep is the sink, how high do they sit in the chair and can they get under (it)? What type of faucet and sprayer can they use? Most have limited use with their fingers, therefore, leaving them with (a) few options as (to) what they can use (is important). Use of sinks with rear-centered locations allows the user to get closer to the sink without hitting the pipes."

In addition, Bixenman asserts that putting lighting in the correct location for food preparation is key. "For example, use of a fog-free mirror above the cooktop can allow the user to see into a big pan," he says. The way the lighting is arranged will help the client use the mirror.

Upper cabinet placement is also key. "If you lower them too far, you lose valuable kitchen counter space to where things like coffee makers won't fit under (them)," Bixenman says. "Use of tools such as pull-down racks made by rev-a-shelf.com can allow (users) to keep (the cabinets) at regular heights. Use of drawers on lower cabinets allows (clients) to file things accordingly."

Cathy Jerome, one of Bixenman's clients, says, "The main concern for me during our remodel was the ability to get around in the kitchen without constantly running into cabinets, walls, etc. That's where the accessible cabinets were such a huge help because of giving me the extra space under the cabinets for turning space. I can easily go from the sink to the refrigerator to the stove to the oven and never seem to hit anything."

This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Mobility Management.

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