Adapting your home for disability Adapting kitchens for disability
Kitchens often require considerable work to ensure they are safe and to retain a disabled person’s independence. The good news is there are many ingenious solutions that can help people to stay in their own home. But there are a huge number of different ways to adapt a kitchen, so the choices can be bewildering.
First look at reducing the ‘danger zone’ areas, such as cookers and gas appliances. Then consider height adaptation to some of the kitchen areas so that a wheelchair user or a visually impaired or deaf person can prepare snacks and food for him or herself.
Some of the adaptations that are required either prevent accidents happening or buy valuable time if something does go wrong, in the event of a fire, for instance.
These adaptations include:
- Keeping the area well lit.
- Unplugging all appliances after use.
- Fitting a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm – and testing them weekly (buy special vibrating pads or flashing lights for people who can’t hear).
- Removing any obstacles, such as low coffee tables or rugs.
- Having a fire extinguisher and blanket to hand.
- Keeping any knives or kitchen utensils safely out of the way.
- Installing covers for areas like the cooker hob, such as a cooker guard
- Positioning a washing machine and dishwasher for easy reach; a top-loading washing machine or tabletop dishwasher might be useful.
Choose a cooker that can be left on at little risk and is easy to clean. For example, a halogen hob that isn’t hot when touched, rather than a gas hob or oven. Microwaves are handy but can be dangerous for people with dementia who may not remember they shouldn’t put any metal inside.
Built-in ovens at just the right height, with a drop down door that can be used as an extra shelf if required, are an excellent way of helping people to be independent, while not impacting on anyone else in the home.
Work surfaces for wheelchair users
Adaptations can be made to the height of units and appliances to limit the amount of bending down required, or to allow wheelchair usage. A guideline for wheelchair users is to place a worktop at 10cm below the elbow.
However, there are many different types of wheelchairs, so it is best to get the individual and the kitchen measured by an expert to work out the best dimensions for height and depth. There are also adjustable height shelves and tabletop cookers available.
There are lots of handy devices and tips that can make a real difference to disabled people in everyday life.
- Corner carousels can be really useful to help you find things easily without too much bending and twisting.
- Pull-out worktops and foldaway ironing boards can make it simpler to use the kitchen.
- Mobile trolleys provide easy-to-access storage.
- Easy-to-use handles – small or slippery knobs can cause difficulties.
Choose matt surfaces to avoid reflective glare for the partially sighted and think carefully about the type of taps you want, and their position. They don’t have to be at the back of the sink. Levers rather than screw taps can be easier to use. There are also taps available for those that have a weak grip or that can be turned on and off at floor level. Or adaptations that can be fitted to your existing taps to make them easier to use.