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Accessible Kitchens

Part 2


Task lighting, which includes food preparation, kitchen sink and cooktop, mounted under cabinets or on ceilings is very important. Check and correct lighting for any countertop shadows that might appear.

Under cabinet LED task lighting
Figure 7 - Under cabinet LED task lighting

Use under cabinet task lighting that does not emit a lot of heat, such as LED types, as shown in Figure 7.

Additional information on:

Under cabinet lighting;

Choosing light bulbs and lamps.

Make sure that all light switches, including the task lighting switches are located in an accessible location.


Access to the kitchen is as important as any other design consideration. Door opening should be at least 32 inches of a completely unobstructed opening. The use of swing-free or expandable door hinges (Figure 2) can help to obtain the minimum 32 inch dimension if you must have a door on the kitchen entry point.

  1. Outlets (Receptacles):
  • Wall outlets for countertop use - the normal location for a wall outlet; the wall above and behind the base cabinets in not an easily accessible location for someone in a wheelchair. Consider placing outlets on the face of the base cabinets or use flip-up countertop outlets, as shown in Figure 8.
Flip-up electrical outlet in closed and open positions
Figure 8 - Flip-up electrical receptacle in closed and open positions

    Note: Check with your local building department with respect to countertop mounted flip-up outlets. Many building departments will not approve their use even if they are UL and CSA approved.

  • Wall outlets on cabinet vacant walls - wall outlets located away from cabinets should be at least 18 inches above the finished floor so that they are conveniently accessible for someone in a wheelchair.
  1. Switches:
  • Switches - install switches at a height of 48 inches from the top of the finished floor.
  • Switch Style - Decorator style, rocker switches are easier to operate than toggle switches.
  • Remote Control - Consider the use of remote control switches, as shown in Figure 9.
Remote control switch
Figure 9 - Remote control switch


  1. Cooking:
  • Cooktops - a standard range with a cooktop and oven should be replaced with a separate cooktop and oven. The cooktop should be mounted in a base cabinet that provides underneath access for a wheelchair (knee space). Cooktop burner or element control knobs should be located in a position that does not require the user to reach across hot burners in order to adjust cooking temperatures, as shown in Figure 10.
  • Ovens - the oven should be a built-in model, Figure 11, mounted in a base cabinet.
  • Provide a heat-resistant pad of some sort close to the oven so that cookware that is removed from the oven can be conveniently set down.
  1. Dishwasher:
  • Consider the use of a built-in drawer style dishwasher, as shown in Figure 12, mounted in a base cabinet.
Cooktop with front burner controls
Figure 10 - Cooktop with front burner controls
Built-in oven
Figure 11 - Built-in oven
Drawer style dishwasher
Figure 12 - Drawer style dishwasher
  1. Microwave:
  • Microwave ovens should be mounted in a base cabinet.
  1. Refrigerator/Freezer:
  • Side by side refrigerator/freezers, as shown in Figure 14, are easier to use than a standard two door, upper and lower refrigerator/freezer.
  • Refrigerator/freezers that have the freezer as a drawer on the bottom, as shown in Figure 15, of the appliance are an acceptable alternative.
Dishwasher raised 9 inches
Figure 13 - Dishwasher raised 9 inches
Side by side refrigerator/freezer
Figure 14 - Side by side refrigerator/freezer
Refrigerator with bottom drawer freezer
Figure 15 - Refrigerator with bottom drawer freezer

Turning Space:

A cramped kitchen can in itself a logistical nightmare. Wheelchairs require approximately 5 feet of turning space, 25 square feet in total. Placing objects such as island counters, chairs and stools within the kitchen area itself can make maneuvering difficult and hazardous.

Part 1