Accessibility and Universal Design Tips in Kitchens for Contractors and Homeowners

March 13, 2017

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, accessibility considerations for the disabled and the elderly is one of the top ten trends on the rise in 2017. As a contractor, it is important to understand how your design choices for your kitchen remodeling project can be in accordance with accessibility and universal design principles to allow good quality of life for disabled and elderly residents. Here are a few considerations for contractors who are designing kitchens with an emphasis on accessibility and universal design for disabled or elderly residents.

  1. When planning the spatial aspects in your floor plan, make sure to include at least a five-foot turning radius of free space. This will allow anyone using an electric wheelchair, scooter, or other electric accessibility device to turn around comfortably without risk of bumping into any appliances, countertops, or kitchen cabinets.
  2. Ensure all faucets are accessible – that means hands-free or lever-based means of operation to turn on and off, as well as undersink clearance to roll a wheelchair under the sink within easy reach of the taps. We recommend approximately 30 inches wide, 27 inches high, and 19 inches deep. This may require special plumbing considerations to accommodate additional space, as well as insulation to shield against potential burns from hot water running through the pipes.
  3. Make sure countertops are accessible for all household members. The recommended accessible kitchen counter height is 28 to 34 inches above the floor level, compared to a conventional height for countertops is 36 inches. If you are designing a kitchen countertop for use by a mobility-impaired individual along with other household members, it may be a good design choice to install adjustable countertops or alternate multiple countertops with some space available for each resident.
  4. When making flooring choices for accessibility and universal design, we recommend that you choose slip-resistant flooring. Flooring manufacturers typically release a coefficient of friction that corresponds to the slip-resistance of the flooring material – a coefficient of friction when wet above 0.60 will meet or exceed guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For certain types of flooring, you can also increase slip-resistance by decreasing the size of the tiles, for example, smaller-sized ceramic tiles have more grout lines available to provide traction.
  5. When choosing the appliances, consider side-opening wall ovens, cooktops with front-facing burner controls and hot-surface indicators, countertop microwaves instead of over-the-stove units, and side-by-side refrigerators that allow easy access to both freezer and refrigerator compartments as opposed to a refrigerator designed with freezer on-top or on-bottom.
  6. For kitchen cabinetry, there is plenty of new kitchen cabinet technology geared towards accessibility. Soft-close cupboards, touch-release drawers, pull-out shelving, and pull and swing lazy Susan corner units can be great choices that take accessibility and universal design into consideration for individuals with mobility or strength impairments. Pantry storage and cooking pot storage should be accessible to seated individuals at a height of 20 to 44 inches above the floor.
  7. Finally, make sure to review all your choices at the end of the design phase. Relatively small considerations like light-switches and electrical outlets operable from a seated position can make a big difference in the lives of the disabled and elderly.

For more information on kitchen remodeling tips for contractors and homeowners alike, contact Discount Kitchens Etc. We supply kitchen cabinetry to some of the best contractors in the state of Massachusetts.

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