hand on wooden floor boards

Layouts, Contractors and Building Plans

Have it Your Way
Okay, you want to make some serious changes to your kitchen, or start from scratch and build a new one. You can design it completely to your liking, customizing everything in it while reserving enough free space in which to move around.

So ask yourself fundamental questions: will I be standing or sitting most of the time? Will I need room for a wheelchair and/or a utility cart? Will another person share the workspace with me? Address your needs and wants one by one from a task-specific viewpoint. Make a list of must-haves.


Look at Large Appliances
If you're considering replacing your large appliances, go shopping now, so you'll have an idea of what adaptive models are available and allow space for them before building. Would a freezer on the bottom instead of the top or side be helpful? Would a cook stove with knee space below work better than a conventional oven with burners on top? Where will it be positioned in your kitchen? Do you use a microwave oven or toaster oven more often than a conventional oven? If you're not using it, lose it. What about knee space under the counters and sink?


Draw up a Preliminary Plan
Before you call a contractor or architect, develop a preliminary floor plan for yourself. Start by drafting a picture—nothing fancy—just draw basic shapes with your pencil, squares and rectangles. Draw in the fridge and stove; look at the open space left and where counters go. A good rolling cart helps you move dishes and pots around easily, so you may opt to leave more floor area, if possible, to accommodate a cart.


Select a Contractor
When you contact a designer or contractor, look for one who specializes in accessible home modification, but know that a good contractor will be able to adapt to whatever his/her customer needs. Ask friends and neighbors who have had work done recently for a referral. Talk with various contractors until one of them gives you a good sense about his/her knowledge and expertise of your accessibility concerns.

Get three quotes, but go with the contractor whom you have the most confidence in—it may be the one with the middle or high quote. A contractor who works too quickly and cheaply, may compromise quality and cost you a bundle redoing it. Don't be afraid to ask for references, and if possible, go see completed work for past customers. 


Referrals—Building Plans
If you're looking for a contractor in your area, contact the National Association of Remodeling Industries (NARI) by clicking this link or calling 847-298-9200. Call and leave your name, address and telephone number, and let them know you're interested in wheelchair-accessible or custom kitchen modification, depending on what you're interested in. NARI will provide you with a list of contractors in your area, and if requested, send you a free guide on remodeling. NARI can also answer basic questions about your home modification project. Or, contact the local office of the National Association of Home Builders or consider Angie's List to find reputable contractors. Also look in your local yellow pages or search online for contractors that specialize in accessible home modification.

Here is an article, Home Remodeling for Disability and Special Needs: What You Need to Know by Michael Sledd.  It covers essential information for disability and special needs home remodeling that includes legal and financial resources, tips to hire the right home remodeler and suggested modifications. 


You May Not Need an Architect!
The contractor may be able to devise a simple plan based on your needs, and many plans are published in building guides and home improvement books and magazines. Check the library for home design or remodeling periodicals. Your contractor will adapt the plan for your space. If you do need an architect, one of the above organizations or your contractor can recommend one.

Another no-cost option is a Home Depot store. This a little-known secret. Employees assist customers to draw up remodeling plans using computer software programs.


You may qualify for a tax-deduction for modifying your home for a disability. Perhaps a low-interest home-equity loan is the answer.

Typical Kitchen Layouts
These kitchen layouts work best for cooks in wheelchairs or cooks who can't walk far. The layouts provide users with the most efficient use of space.

An L-Shaped Kitchen is perhaps the most user-friendly, especially if the kitchen space flows right into the dining area. You'll get maximum floor area with the least amount of walking or rolling.

The U-Shaped Kitchen has two parallel walls connected by one short one that usually houses the fridge. If you're in the center of a u-shaped kitchen, almost everything is conveniently located on either side of you.

The Galley Kitchen is designed with two parallel walls, similar to the u-shaped kitchen. A third wall, if any, is short and serves only to connect the other two. Providing there is enough free space in the middle (at least a 60 inch diagonal turn-around space for wheelchairs), everything is reachable from the left or right.