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Kitchen Accessibility

Many people do not realize how much time they spend in the kitchen.  This very important room unfortunately can be one of the most inaccessible rooms of the house.  Sinks should be mounted at a height that allows a wheelchair user or a person sitting on a stool to fit under the sink; usually a 30″ under-sink clearance is necessary.  Insulate exposed pipes to prevent accidental burns.


Whenever possible use faucets with levered handles and extended spouts.  Closed fist operation is helpful for persons with arthritis.  Retractable-spray spouts are also a very useful option.  It is a good idea to install an anti-scald device to further prevent accidental burns.  A second sink can be placed in a lowered work area to benefit seated persons or wheelchair users


Countertops and Workspace Areas:

Vary available workspace heights to help include all family members in preparing the meals, from the eight-year-old to the elderly parent in a wheelchair.


Use smooth and matte-finished countertop surfaces to allow the sliding of heavy pots and to minimize glare.

Contrasting countertops and cabinetry aid persons with impaired vision to locate countertop edges.

Rounded countertop edges may minimize injury in the event of a fall.


Cabinetry & Storage:

Base cabinets can utilize “Lazy-Susans,” roll-out shelving, and full-extension drawers to maximize access.

The base of the top cabinets should be no higher than 48″ for easier access.  Top cabinets can also be fully lowered to the countertop level.  Hardware that can be operated with a closed fist is highly recommended. D-shaped handles for cabinetry doors and drawers are commonly used.


Store consistently used items (plates, pots, and pans) in the middle zone of your storage areas.  Light to moderately used items should be placed in the upper storage zone. Heavier items should be stored in the lower zone.


Microwave Oven:

Built-in microwave ovens are usually too high for a seated person to reach.  A high location can potentially be dangerous for seated persons or children when retrieving hot food.


Locate microwave ovens on a lowered countertop or workspace for a seated person to reach and operate.

Provide enough space on which a heavy and hot plate can be slid.



Ranges, cooktop/oven combinations, are not recommended because a seated person or a person in a wheelchair can not sit under the cooking surface.  The area under a cooktop can be left open to allow access for a seated individual or a person in a wheelchair.  Remote switches to control cooktop venting/lighting can be placed at a more accessible location where a seated person can reach and operate; do not place switches such that a person must reach over a heated surface.  An angled mirror can be mounted over the cooktop or range to help a seated person see into the back pots on the cooking surface


The ideal cooktop would:

Be Electric

Have front controls

Have heat indicators for unused burners to warn people of a potentially hot surface that can burn them

Be flush with the countertop

Have a smooth cooktop surface

Have a burner arrangement that prevents a person from reaching over a burner to access a rear burner

Have controls that a person with arthritis or impaired vision can operate

This helps an individual who has strength/endurance impairments, vision impairments, and/or impaired reach remain functionally independent at the cooktop



Side-oven doors are helpful for those who have difficulty bending to place or retrieve heavy items from the oven.

Mount ovens at a height that can be easily reached into without excessive back bending.

Oven controls should not exceed a height of 48″ above the finished floor.

A pull-out shelf directly under a raised oven can be used to prevent dropping heavy or hot items onto the floor.



Raise the dishwasher 18″ to ease loading/unloading the dishwasher without excessive bending of your body.

Dishwasher controls should be on the front face and be operable with a closed fist.

The dishwasher should be able to be opened and closed with a closed fist.

Refrigerator & Freezer:

Side-by-side combinations are the most accessible.

Transparent drawers and adjustable shelving are convenient.



Utilize natural lighting as much as possible to reduce glare.

All work areas should have appropriate task lighting to minimize glare and shadows.

Switches and other environmental controls should be mounted between 42″-48″.

Home automation devices (e.g., timers and motion sensors) can be used to turn on/off lighting.

As long as glare is avoided, you can increase the lighting level in any room to help those with vision impairments.



Use contrasting colors to aid vision impaired individuals. Low-vision individuals are less likely to fall if they can distinguish walls, cabinetry, and countertops.  Flooring should be hard and relatively smooth to improve mobility. Gaps between tiled floors can potentially cause people to fall and injure themselves.  Avoid light-colored flooring. Inadvertent marks from persons using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs can easily be seen.


Other Considerations:

Wall-mounted electrical outlets should be mounted at a minimum height of 18″ above the finished floor

Avoid placing electrical outlets on the wall behind a countertop.  Persons sitting at the work area may not be able to plug in an electrical appliance.

Remote-sink controls (e.g., garbage disposals) should be placed where a seated person can reach and operate

Food preparation should flow smoothly.  Food should move from the storage area (refrigerator/freezer) to the dining area in a triangular or linear path to minimize clutter and minimize unnecessary expenditure of energy.

For additional solutions, contact the PVA or an occupational therapist for additional information.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Paralyzed Veterans of America, Cal-Diego Chapter's mission is to improve the quality of life for veterans of the United States Armed Forces and others who have a spinal cord injury or dysfunction. 

PVA Ligo_edited.jpg

Paralyzed Veterans of America

  Cal-Diego Chapter

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