By Linda Stango, AIA
The kitchen is one of the most interactive rooms in the house and is often the gathering place for family and friends. Planning is essential since this room cannot be “rearranged” as other spaces can. If you are considering remodeling or building new kitchen; a good place to start is by assessing the needs of the users, from their physical requirements to the types of food that will be prepared. What are the ultimate goals of the redesign: new cabinets, updated finishes, more room to maneuver or additional natural light? Space and budget constraints are the most important factors in determining the final outcome of the kitchen renovation. A certified kitchen planner or architect can help you access your needs and suggest economical ways to fulfill them.
In addition to planning the space, the appliances, work surfaces, storage, flooring and sinks have to be carefully chosen to ensure that the space functions properly.
The Right Stove
When building a new home or remodeling an existing kitchen careful thought should be given to the various stoves, cook tops and ovens available and consider which will best accommodate the primary user.
A conventional stove that combines the cook top with the oven in one unit does not provide knee clearance. If this is the desired appliance, consider the placement of the controls. Are they easily accessible (which may be a drawback if young children are in the home) or are they at the back of the cook top so you have to reach over the cooking surface? Be sure to test the controls to make sure they are easy to operate. Place the oven where a parallel approach is available (access from the side as well as the front) as this will allow the user to get closer to the cooking surface. A parallel approach provides a clear floor area no less than 48″ wide by 36″ long located directly in front of the appliance with the 48″ side parallel to the stove. There are also ovens that can function as microwaves, convection and conventional ovens all in one appliance.
Wall ovens can be mounted at various heights, which makes access easier for a person using a wheelchair. If the oven has a side hinged door consider providing a pullout board below the oven to protect from spills as the hot dishes are being removed from the oven. There are many models that have duel ovens, the upper one being a microwave and the lower being a conventional oven. These usually have an overall height of 42 inches. The controls are usually located at the top these models and can be touch type. The unit should be placed within the upper and lower reach range of the user, to ensure that all of the features will be accessible. Many units have a “lock-out” feature to prevent inadvertent use.
A separate cook top offers wheelchair users the option of having knee clearance below the burners. It can be placed at the height of the accessible countertop, usually at 34″ above the floor. Most units are between 2 Â½” to 4″ deep, leaving plenty of knee clearance under the unit (a minimum of 27 inches). Be certain that the unit is properly insulated to avoid burns. For cook tops and stoves, an electric unit with a smooth ceramic surface allows pots and pans to be easily slid on and off burners in order to minimize spills. Look for models with the controls placed on the leading edge of the unit, to ensure that they are within reach. Many units feature built-in down draft fans to remove heat and cooking odors from the kitchen; with controls located proximate to the burner controls these units are very usable. Pan holders can keep a pot in place for single-handed stirring. Placement near the sink can assist the user in putting water in a pot which is already on the stove using the sprayer from the sink. Pot filler faucets are being installed in homes to serve this very purpose.
Microwave ovens are often placed above a cook top in conjunction with the hood fan placing them out of reach of a wheelchair user. Consider buying a counter top model or installing it in a similar manner to a wall oven.
Many major appliance manufactures are designing cooking appliances with accessibility in mind. It is not difficult to find a product that is both attractive and functional. Visit your local home improvement and appliance store and see which works best for you.
For a nominal fee the team at United Spinal’s Accessibility Services can review your plans to ensure that you are getting what you planned on. For more information, please call 716-828-9139 or visit www.accessibilityservices. com.
Linda Stango, AIA is an architect for Accessibility Services.