Clear, practical advice on daily living equipment
A carefully planned kitchen will conserve energy and time for everyone who uses it (DLF, 1996). A refit, or partial redesign, can help you to maintain or regain your independence enhancing access throughout the kitchen to carry out food preparation and cooking. In addition to a kitchens functional use, its appearance / aesthetics should be considered (Gheerawo and Bichard, 2008). If you are paying privately it may be the largest investment you will make in your home, so its important the final result suits both your needs and tastes. In some situations you may be able to receive assistance with funding adaptations.
This page provides advice on:
Most traditional kitchens are based on four main kitchen layouts, which are galley, corridor, L-shaped or U-shaped. The position of the windows and doors usually determine the choice of layout. Read more about kitchen layouts.
Consideration of the kitchen work triangle has been the traditional approach to kitchen planning. This involves the spatial relationship of the cooker, hob/oven or microwave, to the fridge and to the sink/dishwasher. The positions of these items creates a work space in which food preparation, cooking and cleaning/washing up is carried out (DLF, 1996), (Government of South Australia, 2008). If the distance between these main work areas is too small, people may feel cramped. If the distance is too large more energy is required for walking, wheeling, lifting, carrying and cleaning (Government of South Australia, 2008).
Within the layout, you need to consider access to storage at suitable heights and space for the ironing board (if not integral to the design), larger cleaning equipment like mops and access to kitchen waste disposal facilities (including the pedal bin). Space must be left for the passage of kitchen trolleys or rollators if they are required.
Apparently kitchens in new build properties in the UK are 44% smaller than their 19th-century equivalents (Gheerawo and Bichard, 2008), consequently space needs to be used more effectively.
Be clear who the kitchen is being designed for. Is it primarily to provide an accessible kitchen for one user or designed so that all the members of the household can use it (DLF, 1996)?
It is important to plan for the future and consider if you are likely to have changing needs especially if you have a deteriorating medical condition. For example the layout may include extra space to give room for the use of a perching stool or for wheelchair use. What are the specific requirements that you have due to your dexterity, mobility or visual requirements? How far can you reach up, down, and across to ensure that the work surfaces and storage areas are accessible? Consider if your needs, could change in the longer term (DLF, 1996), (Government of South Australia, 2008).
If you would like advice or information, you could:
If you are refurbishing a kitchen for a person with cognitive problems, such as Alzheimers, then a simple uncluttered design layout that resembles what the person is familiar with is recommended (Government of South Australia, 2008).
If you have reduced mobility, a corridor-style kitchen allows you to make use of the bench tops for support. Additional handrails can be installed along the sides of the worktops and provide a safe place to hang a walking stick or crutch (Government of South Australia, 2008).
If you have reduced grip, small adjustments like replacing the type of kitchen door and drawer handles and lever taps may help. If you have difficulties with lifting things such as heavy saucepans you could make adjustments to how you carry out tasks such as replacing lifting with sliding things from a hob to the adjacent worksurface.
A person using a wheelchair generally requires comfortable manoeuvring space of approximately 1500mm diameter, but this depends on the size and type of wheelchair (Goldsmith, 1984). For circulation space, L shaped (Thorpe, 2006) or U shaped kitchen layouts are preferable. If you are going to be pulling up to the worktop with your thighs going under the worktop then it is essential to accurately measure your actual thigh height when seated and then allow approximately 2cm for comfort. 700-850mm high is the usual range (Government of South Australia, 2008), (Thorpe, 2006). If you use a powered wheelchair can the control swing away, or will it fit under the worksurface at the height you are considering? Do your armrests limit access to the worktop (DLF, 1996)?
Sometimes it is essential to reassess the wheelchair style and fittings, for example the type of footplates, or type of control of a powered wheelchair in conjunction with the kitchen design. The NHS wheelchair managers group have a complete list of all wheelchair services, they may be able to help with reassessments.
If you are the main user of the kitchen you maybe able to decide on an optimum fixed worktop height before considering more expensive fittings such as adjustable height kitchen cupboards, worktops or sinks. If you share, you could consider either adapting a section of the kitchen for your use or install a rise and fall unit which allows the sink unit or worktop area to be raised or lowered to suit the user at the time.
If you have reduced reach, height adjustable overhead cupboards could be helpful if you want to make the most of the height above the worktop. AskSARA's kitchen section has further information on height adjustable kitchen worktops, drawers and cupboards.
If you need changes to your kitchen due to your eyesight, there may also be other vision related services or equipment that would interest you. You may be able to make changes to the lighting, use colour and contrast or minor modification to the kitchens which will have a major impact without changing the kitchen layout.
For more information visit:
The Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom Specialists Associationbrings together over 300 fully accredited, independent, UK based retailers. It guarantees customers deposits and ensures standards of design and installation (Goldsmith, 1984). The website includes a section on accessible kitchens.
The Communities and Local Government website has a good practice guide, Delivering Housing Adaptations for Disabled People: A Good Practice Guide P67 which gives guidance to local authorities for adaptations to facilitate preparation and cooking of food.
All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
Conflict of interest statement