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Layout specifications for accessible kitchen design:
This article describes the layout and specifications for accessible kitchens and kitchen work spaces. We cover Accessible kitchen work aisles, passageways. Knee space requirements for accessible kitchens.
Clear floor space specifications for accessible kitchens. Counter & appliance height in accessible kitchens. Storage height, handles, & controls for accessible kitchen design.
Sink & dishwasher work center design for accessible kitchens. Refrigerator work space for accessible kitchen design
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Accessible Kitchen Design Recommenations
This article series discusses current best design practices for kitchens and bathrooms, including layout, clearances, work space, and accessible kitchen and bathroom layout, clearances, turning space, grab bars, controls, etc.
[Click to enlarge any image]
We include advice on choosing and installing kitchen countertops, cabinets, and kitchen or bathroom flooring, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures and fixture controls such as faucets. A list of kitchen and bath product manufactures and sources is included.
To make a kitchen fully functional for wheelchair users
and other seated occupants requires simple commonsense
changes, like placing knobs within reach, as well as more
significant changes, such as lowering counters and providing
knee space below.
The guidelines below, based on
ANSI (American National Standards Institute) A117.1 standards,
are a good starting point in design, but they should
be tailored to the size, reach, and specific capabilities of
Work Aisles and Passageways in Accessible Kitchen Design
Clear space at doorways
and passageways must be at least 32 inches wide and
no more than 24 inches long in the direction of travel.
Eliminate any thresholds at doorways.
The minimum work aisle with counters or appliances on
both sides should be 40 inches.
Walkways with counters or
appliances on only one side can be 36 inches wide, but if a
walkway turns a corner, as in Figure 6-10 (at left), one leg of the walkway space
should be widened to 42 inches for a wheelchair to make the
[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]
From a table or eating counter to a wall, leave 54 inches
for wheelchair access.
In a U-shaped kitchen the minimum
clearance between counters is 60 inches (Figure 6-11 at left).
Knee Space Requirements for Accessible Kitchens
Wherever possible, provide knee space for
a seated user below or adjacent to sinks, cooktops, ranges,
dishwashers, refrigerators, and ovens.
a seated user, below-counter knee space should be a
minimum of 30 inches wide, 27 inches high in front, and
19 inches deep, with a minimum 9-inch-high toe space,
which will accommodate most wheelchair footrests.
users from exposed pipes and mechanicals with a
protective panel and insulation (Figure 6-12 above).
Clear Floor Space Needs for Accessible Kitchens
To make work centers universally
accessible, provide a clear floor space of 30x48 inches or
48x30 inches, centered in front of the sink, dishwasher,
cooktop, oven, and refrigerator.
In an accessible (or other) kitchen design layout, clear floor spaces for different work areas may
overlap, and the long dimension can include up to 19 inches
deep of knee space below counters (Figure 6-13).
Counter and Appliance Height for Accessible Kitchen Designs
he optimal height
for most seated occupants at counters, sinks, and cooktops
is about 32 inches and should be no higher than 34 inches.
Storage Height Specifications for Accessible Kitchen Designs
Most seated users in a kitchen can fully reach
shelving located from 15 to 48 inches high.
located from about 20 to 44 inches is considered optimal for accessible kitchen designs.
In an accessible-designed kitchen you should use open shelving, shelf racks on pantry doors,
and drawers or roll-out shelving for easy access (Figure 6-14).
Handles and Control Recommendations for Accessible Kitchens
Controls, handles, and door
and drawer pulls should be operable with one hand, require
minimal strength, and not require tight grasping, pinching,
or twisting of the wrists. Lever-action handles work well
for doors and faucets. A simple test is to try to operate the
controls with a closed fist.
Mount wall cabinet doors at the bottom of the cabinets
and base cabinet pulls at the top of the cabinets.
Sink and Dishwasher Work Center for Accessible Kitchen Designs
Use a shallow
sink mounted at 32 to 34 inches (32 preferred) with the
drain in the rear so it does not interfere with knee space
(Figure 6-15 below).
The garbage disposal must also be offset so
it does not interfere with knee space. A tall faucet and pullout
spray attachment are recommended to simplify work
at the sink. Locate the dishwasher adjacent to the sink or
no more than 12 inches away.
Lighting Suggestions for Accessible Kitchens
Lighting levels should be up to twice normal
levels. Using light-colored floors, walls, ceilings, and
counters will help keep all areas well illuminated. Light
colors on the insides of cabinets and drawers will help
make items more visible.
Cooking Work Center Suggestions for Accessible Kitchens
If possible, place the cooktop
and sink on the same wall so users do not have to carry
heavy pots across the room. Electric cooktops with a
smooth surface and controls on the front work best so the
user does not have to reach over the top. Look for units
with staggered burners for easier access to back burners.
Use a separate wall-mounted oven, not an under-counter
design. An oven with a side-hinged door rather than the
usual pull-down style works well.
Refrigerator Work Center Design for Accessible Kitchens
Side-by-side units with
doors that swing back a full 180 degrees are preferable to
up-and-down models. Provide at least 18 inches of counter
space adjacent to the refrigerator.
Accessible Kitchen Design Suggestions for Motorized Wheelchair Access
Below in the article references section we provide a DOJ article that gives a high-level gloss on the topic of meeting the accessibility requirements for people using a power-driven motorized device - a concept more broad than only motorized wheelchairs.
Here we will collect specific suggestions for kitchen designs that need to accomodate not simply wheelchair access, but motorized wheelchair access.
Even within the category of motorized wheelchairs and excluding other power-driven mobility devices such as Segways®, motorized wheelchairs vary in dimensions, weight, speed, and turning radius as well as operating controls.
If you have additional motorized wheelchair accessibility design suggestions and/or detailed specifications, or examples of designs that work well, please CONTACT US.
Kitchen cabinet toe kick areas: Normal wheelchair-accessible area cabinet/countertop toe-kick spaces are 9" h x 6" deep but typically these need to provide 18" of entry space for users of power wheelchairs. (Thanks to reader Wayne Duek, 2016).
Kitchen countertop access: the 30" clearance given by ADA will be inadequate for power wheelchair users whose chair controls need more under-counter clearance height for armrests and n some cases joystick controls.
33" or more of floor to under-countertop clearance space may be needed.
Kitchen electrical receptacles: may need to be moved to a wide-width countertop front edge to provide ready access. Do not make a wheelchair user have to reach over the countertop to access a wall receptacle or switch.
For electrical receptacles along an open wall where there are no cabinets or countertops, locate the receptacle between 18" and 48" above the floor level.
Kitchen flooring: may need to be changed to a material that can withstand the added weight and turning torque of heavier motorized wheelchairs.
Watch out: while stone or ceramic tile can provide a hard, durable kitchen surface, do not add tile or stone to an existing floor without first confirming that the floor stiffness will support the tile without cracking; you may need to add blocking, cross-bracing or other support, more-so where a heavier power-operated chair is used.
Kitchen lighting: In addition to having already placed lighting controls at an accessible location and height that can be reached from the wheelchair, if a motorized chair user has more-limited use of hands and fingers, different or even custom switches may be appropriate.
Search under "Adaptable switches" or "adaptive light switches" for a wide variety of light switches meeting different needs.
Kitchen work area turning space: may need to be increased for motorized wheelchair use.
ADAAG Standard wheelchair turning radius:
T-shape space: 36 inches (915 mm) wide at the top and stem within a 60 inch by 60 inch (1525 mm by 1525 mm) square.
Standard manually-operated wheelchair turning radius: 24 inches is going to be too small for a power-operated wheelchair.
Power Chair Feature Turning Space Comparisons
Turning Circumference / Radius
Front Wheel Drive
50 - 250 lbs.
20 - 120 Kilos
Long back end makes turning difficult in tight spaces
Front short endmakes turning tight corners easier
May be able to turn within a circle with diameter equal to the chair length
Rear Wheel Drive
Notes to the table:
Footrest position and design add to length of chair and thus impact turning radius
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
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ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
AS 1428.2-1992 (R2015) Design for access and mobility Enhanced and additional requirements - Buildings and facilities Standards Australia available at https://infostore.saiglobal.com/store/PreviewDoc.aspx?saleItemID=242209
Excerpts: Australian Standard
Design for access and mobility
Part 2: Enhanced and additional
Sets out requirements for the design of buildings and facilities for access for people with disabilities. Where appropriate, these requirements are additional to the minimum requirements of AS 1428.1.
Also covers requirements for buildings and facilities which are not covered in Part 1.
The purpose of this Standard is twofold. First, it covers items which are not covered in AS 1428.1, Design
for access and mobility, Part 1: General requirements for access—Buildings , and second it gives enhanced
requirements for access, for reference by authorities and other users who wish to provide a greater level
of accessibility than the minimum requirements of Part 1.
Whereas the requirements in Part 1 are based on research on the capabilities of 80 percent of people with
disabilities in Australia who use wheelchairs, together with some recognized needs of other disability
groups, the enhanced requirements in this Standard have been determined, where possible, from the
researched capabilities of at least 90 percent of test subjects comprising both people who use wheelchairs
and ambulant people.
Where the minimum space, dimensions and gradients of Part 1 have been shown to
be suitable for 90 percent of users, the requirements of AS 1428.1 have been called up in this Standard.
The major sources for determining the requirements in this Standard are studies by J. Bails, Public
Buildings Department of South Australia, 1983, and E. Steinfeld, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA,
For reach limits, reference was also made to A study of the space requirements of wheelchair users
from the official journal of the International Society of Paraplegia: Paraplegia, volume 4, Number 1, May
In recommending spaces between rest areas and time allowance at traffic lights, reference was made
to the ability of people to move stated distances and the movement time of people in the 1990 research
report An ergonomic study of pedestrian areas for disabled people, Institute of Transport Studies,
University of Leeds, UK.
The series, when complete, will comprise the following:
1428 Design for access and mobility
1428.1 General requirements for access—Buildings
1428.2 Enhanced and additional requirements—Buildings and facilities (this Standard)
1428.3 Requirements for children and adolescents with physical disabilities
1428.4 Tactile ground surface indicators for the orientation of people with vision impairment
Australia, Queensland DOH, Comparison of Front, Mid and Rear Wheel Drive Power Chairs, [PDF] Queensland Australia DOH, 3
rd Floor, Buranda Village
Cnr Cornwall St & Ipswich Rd
Buranda, QLD, 4102
AUSTRALIA, retrieved 2019/09/22, original source: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0028/428482/pdwc-comparison.pdf
Bails, J. H. "Project report on the field testing of the Australian standard 1428-1977 part 1—Recommended amendments and index to part 2 detailed reports." Adelaide South Australia, Public Buildings Department (1983).
Bails, J. H. "Project report on the field testing of the Australian standard 1428-1977 part 2—Details of field testing of AS1428." Adelaide South Australia, Public Buildings Department (1983).
Enders, Alexandra, O.T.R. (Editor), TECHNOLOGY FOR
SOURCEBOOK [PDF] Association for the Advancement of Rehabilitadon Technology, Publishers
Suite 700, 1101 Connecticut Avenue, N W Washington, D C 20036 retrieved 2018/09/25, original source: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED313820.pdf
Equal Access, KITCHENS [accessible design suggestions] [PDF] Disability Access & Egress Consultants, Equal Access
Unit 6, 15 Howleys Road Notting Hill, Vic, 3186 Australia Tel: +61 3 9001 5805, Tel: 1300 994 890(03) 9001 5805 retrieved 2018/09/22, original source: http://www.disabilityaccessconsultants.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Kitchen.pdf
Special thanks to Bruce Bromley,
Equal Access Consultants, Victoria, AU, for assisting in the discussion of accessible designs for kitchens and bathrooms, 2018/09/24.
Website excerpt: Equal Access is one of Australia’s leading DDA Universal Design and Disability Access and Egress Consultancies. Our key personnel are accredited with the Association of Consultants in Access Australia Inc (ACAA) and provide a specialist consulting service throughout Australia and internationally to enhance the built environment and to provide “Equal Access” for members of the community with a disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act, Building Code of Australia & Australian Standards are highly complex and subject to constant change. Litigation over property access and compliance is increasing at an astounding rate. Property and business owners are subject to substantial and often unexpected liability.
Equal Access can assist in all areas of built environment access as a DDA Consultant and would welcome the opportunity to work with you.
FINLAND HOUSING DESIGN DECREE, 2004, [PDF] G1 THE NATIONAL BUILDING CODE OF FINLAND Housing Design Regulations and Guidelines 2005, Ministry of the Environment Decree on housing design, retrieved 2017/01/07
FINLAND FIRE SAFETY CODES & DECREE 2002 [PDF], E1 THE NATIONAL BUILDING CODE OF FINLAND, Fire safety of buildings, Regulations and guidelines 2002, Decree of the Ministry of the Environment on fire safety of buildings, retrieved 2017/01/07
MDA, Muscular Dystrophy Association, The EZ-Use Kitchen [PDF of web article] Muscular Dystrophy Association National Office
161 N. Clark, Suite 3550
Chicago, Illinois 60601
800-572-1717 | ResourceCenter@mdausa.org retrieved 2018/09/22, original source: https://www.mda.org/quest/article/ez-use-kitchen
Note: there nothing specific about motorized wheelchairs in this article.
POWER-DRIVEN MOBILITY DEVICES, ADA-REQUIREMENTS [PDF] (2014) U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, Tel: 800-514-0301 (Voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY) - retrieved 2018/09/22, original source: https://www.ada.gov/opdmd.htm
Excerpt: The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register.
These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).
Steinfeld, Edward. "Accessible Buildings for People with Walking and Reaching Limitations." (1979).
Steinfeld, Edward. Access to the built environment: a review of literature. The Office: for sale by the Supt. of Docs., US Govt. Print. Off., 1979.
Steinfeld, Edward, Steven A. Schroeder, and Marilyn Bishop. Adaptable dwellings. Vol. 402. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research: for sale by the Supt. of Docs., US Govt. Print. Off., 1979.
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(June 7, 2012) kay said:
I thought I would need to think about this redo in about 10 years. Things changed for me in I step. This is important for everyone to think about.
(Feb 2, 2013) Anonymous said:
i remodeled my grandmother's house and added a 2d bath with a wide door, as the 'main bath door was just 18". i was planning for my mom. Overnight, my daughter needed it--fer several years. I dont see hmes the same way anymore.
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