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Kitchen Accessibility Basics
Creativity is Key!

Having a hard time in the kitchen? Where accessibility is nonexistent, find new ways to tame your kitchen. It's possible with the tips listed here, and your creativity.

Many of us have spent too much frustration trying to prepare a simple meal, and some folks have given up cooking altogether. But here is an opportunity to reclaim your kitchen!

Necessity is the mother of invention, so here are some tried-and-true techniques that help. A kitchen is the heart of everyone's home so preparing meals should be enjoyable (or at least possible). Read on:

  • Ideally, a kitchen should have a 5 x 5 foot turning radius for wheelchair access. If space is limited, most of the prep work can be done at a table just outside the kitchen. (This is also a good strategy for people who are heat sensitive.)
  • From a wheelchair, it's easiest to function in a kitchen with lowered cabinets and knee space beneath counters. A recess near the baseboard leaves room for toes and kick plates. If you can afford it, lower the cabinets. But a quick, inexpensive way to have knee space is to remove cabinet doors below the sink and some cupboards. Carefully pack up cabinet doors and any hardware to store for future use.
  • Under the sink, a plumber or handyman can move the hot water pipe out of the way of legs or insulate with foam rubber to prevent scalding. It may also be necessary to insulate the garbage disposal.
  • Hang a mirror above stove burners to supervise cooking from a seated position.
  • Raise the counters if you have a difficult time bending over; lower cabinets if you can't reach them and only use for long-term storage. To make the most of cabinet space, use carousel trays; these make 360-degree turns to store a lot in one place and you will thank yourself for buying them! Check a hardware store or stores that sell RubberMaid™ items (only about $2.00 for turntables!)
  • Linoleum or tile flooring is preferred over indoor-outdoor carpeting because that's easier to roll over and much easier to clean.
  • If purchasing a new refrigerator, sink, or stove, keep in mind that there are new adapted models, such as sloping sinks, refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom, and cook stoves with knee-space below and front controls instead of side controls.
  • If using an oven or stove is too difficult, a toaster oven or microwave oven is much simpler. (See Small Appliances Rule.)
  • A rolling utility cart allows you to move a heavy pot of water across the room or bring plates, glasses, and bowls to the table.
  • Use the work triangle strategy: that means logistically arrange ingredients and tools to efficiently direct your flow of activity in a triangular path. Some cooks find it easiest to pull out all ingredients, bowls and utensils at the beginning. Determine your work surface (table, counter, TV folding table) as your first point of the triangle; do your measuring of ingredients, chopping, and other preparation here. Work at the sink is the next point of the triangle for washing produce or meat. Place a small TV-table near the sink if you need it. Cooking at the stove or oven is the third leg of the triangle. The main idea is to logistically arrange supplies efficiently within the three legs of your triangle.
  • Tools, seasonings, and pots can be set up to surround your work area. Think of new places to store things so they don't have to go into a cabinet—leave them out altogether—never put anything away! For instance dry goods can go into decorative canisters, vegetables into hanging wire baskets, spices into a spice rack, pots onto a pegboard, and so on. Give yourself a break!
  • Contrasting colors aid the person with a visual disability, such as a brightly colored cutting board. A large print timer and use of a magnifier aid vision. Special tools like liquid measure sensors are also available from Lighthouse International (See Shopping for Aids to Daily Living).
  • Single-handed cutting boards with spikes or edges hold food in place for persons who are only able to use one hand. Catalogs that carry aids to daily living sell a wide variety of adaptive cookware. Ergonomic or non-slip utensils are available at larger cooking supply stores too. (See Shopping for Aids to Daily Living).