Figure 6-13: Clear Floor Space required in kitchens (C) J Wiley, S Bliss Accessible Kitchen Design: Best Practices

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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

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Accessible Kitchen Design Recommenations

Figure 6-1: Accessible Kitchen Design Specs:  (C) J Wiley S BlissThis 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.

As described in detail in Chapter 6 of Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction:

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 the occupants.

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 turn.

[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]

Figure 6-1: Accessible Kitchen Design Specs:  (C) J Wiley S Bliss

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.

To accommodate 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.

Figure 6-1: Accessible Kitchen Design Specs:  (C) J Wiley S Bliss

Protect users from exposed pipes and mechanicals with a protective panel and insulation (Figure 6-12 above).

Clear Floor Space Needs for Accessible Kitchens

Figure 6-12: Accessible Kitchen design knee space required (C) J Wiley S Bliss

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

Figure 6-1: Accessible Kitchen Design Specs: storage space (C) J Wiley S Bliss

Most seated users in a kitchen can fully reach shelving located from 15 to 48 inches high.

Storage 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.

Figure 6-1: Accessible Kitchen Design Specs: accessible sink and dishwasher work centers (C) J Wiley S Bliss

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.

Also see Task Lighting, Definition , Uses and Kitchen Lighting Requirements.

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.

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction. This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.

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.

Power Chair Feature Turning Space Comparisons

Drive Mode Turning Circumference / Radius Weight Comment
Front Wheel Drive Medium

50 - 250 lbs.

20 - 120 Kilos

Long back end makes turning difficult in tight spaces

Front short endmakes turning tight corners easier

Mid-Wheel Drive Smallest

May be able to turn within a circle with diameter equal to the chair length

Rear Wheel Drive Largest  

Notes to the table:

Footrest position and design add to length of chair and thus impact turning radius

Source: includes Comparison of Front, Mid and Rear Wheel Drive Power Chairs, [PDF] cited in detail below.


References / Resources: ADA-Compliant Accessible Kitchens & Baths


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