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Accessible Wheelchair Kitchen Design – What installers need to know

Installing an accessible kitchen need not be complicated. However, the latest best practice advice from occupational therapists does give installers some food for thought, particular when thinking about wheelchair accessibility.

Stuart Reynolds, UK Marketing & Product Management Director at AKW, discusses how installers can design with wheelchair accessibility in mind.

Growing demand for wheelchair accessibility

With no government requirements for wheelchair user housing or mandated space standards, inaccessibility is a common problem. This is reflected in the figures, with approximately 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UKi and only 400,000 of them live in adapted homesii. With the kitchen the most likely place for accidents at homeiii, having a space that works for those in wheelchairs is important.

Following consultation with the team at The OT Service, here are some of the things that installers need to be aware of when either thinking about designing a wheelchair accessible kitchen, or ensuring the plumbing and heating meets the end user’s needs.

Kitchen wheelchair accessibility challenges

In general, the kitchen design layout should allow for effective use of all the space, ease of approach and access to essential appliances. It should also avoid the need to transfer items from one side of the room to another. The focus should be on creating one continuous length of worktop, appliances and storage units in a layout that allows for a wheelchair user to push items along the worktop and not have to lift them.

Worktops can be fixed or height adjustable, such as AKW’s ActivMotion Rise and Fall worktops, or a mix of the two. However, the final decision will depend on the requirements of the wheelchair user and their household. Height adjustable worktops can present challenges for installers, particularly around plumbing in sinks. Here are some top tips from the leading occupational therapists in this field:

Adjustable worktop – A worktop can be controlled either electrically or via a winding handle system. When specifying the unit, discuss with the client where the controls for the worktop should be situated. For most clients this will be their dominant hand side.

The depth of a worktop must allow the wheelchair user to be able to wheel far enough forward to access all sockets, wall unit drop down baskets, the sink and the taps. The client should be able to manoeuvre under the unit to get close enough to not have to lean forward in their chair to prepare and cook food, or to wash up, as this will compromise their position and could lead to pressure or musculoskeletal injuries.

If providing a front fascia, it is important to make sure this does not impede a wheelchair user from getting close enough to the worktop to enable them to use essential items. Also, when positioning and fixing the worktops, ensure that brackets or legs do not impact on access for the wheelchair user. For new build kitchens, there should be a minimum of 500mm of worksurface either side of the sink to allow for the stacking of dirty or clean crockery and pans.

Using shallower sinks – The sink should be a shallow bowl 120mm – 150mm deep, insulated underneath and have a rear waste trap or centre bowl space saver waste (monobloc tap sinks are reversible so have centre bowl waste positions). This allows for a wheelchair user to get fully under the sink to complete the necessary tasks.

Remember to use flexible hosing to allow the worktop to rise and fall. It is critical that the pipework does not impede wheelchair access or be fitted in such a way that the wheelchair does not get entangled in the pipework.

Level mixer taps – Specify a lever mixer tap (swan neck type or extended spout) with a swivel mechanism of an appropriate height to allow for easy filling of items such as the kettle and saucepans, whilst situated on the draining board. This reduces the effort required to lift, hold and move heavy items.

Heating – When thinking about heating, the key factor to consider is that any radiators do not impinge on circulation space or restrict access to necessary appliances. It is recommended that provision is made for an independent source of heat that can be used separately from the main household. This is because the kitchen is usually one of the first rooms used in the morning and late at night and additional heating will allow the user to control its temperature and reduce any effects of lack of temperature modulation.

Creating cost-effective wheelchair inclusive kitchens begins with good design. So, for more detailed Occupational Therapy information concerning appliances, grab rails, sockets and switches and lighting placement and more, why not download AKW’s latest guide to understanding accessible wheelchair kitchen design, from www.akw-ltd.co.uk or click here.

For more information contact AKW on 01905 823298, Email: sales@akw-ltd.co.uk or visit www.akw-ltd.co.uk