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John Williamson

Adapted Kitchen, actually MY adapted kitchen...
What a full time wheelchair user needs in a kitchen!

Everyone is different. This is what I needed to be able to function normally and make MY life easier and independent.  I wanted my kitchen to look "normal" and not look "adapted" and be fully usable by able bodied as well as myself as a wheelchair user. I also had to think about Vera as she uses it more than I do!

a) SPACE! When you are restricted to a Wheelchair (or Powerchair) then you need some space...

Space is invaluable. Clutter is not. This is the biggest need. No amount of adaptations or special kitchen units etc will help much if you cannot move about freely and move away from open doors and fridges and alongside various units easily.

                Slightly Larger Kitchen | Medium kitchen | Huge Kitchen

With that in mind I disposed of ALL the existing  furniture, archways, carpets, dining tables and absolutely everything free standing that was in my way!  And a wall...  The result is some serious SPACE to move about!  You wouldn't believe how much difference this makes. Or that it is the same old kitchen.

I use this space for everything from testing/building powerchairs to hovering my helicopter as well as for eating cooking and communal meeting area etc.  It's VERY important to me. Before considering fitting an "adapted kitchen" have a good think. You may be better off actually moving house or knocking down walls, widening doors etc first. I was lucky my house is a bungalow so (most of) its rooms were already on the ground floor and it was already pretty big and had good car parking space and easy access to everything from the town centre to the pub! 

If you recently became disabled then think very carefully before wasting time or money adapting your existing home. There are often better suited properties at the same price and you are likely disabled for life so plan ahead! Why struggle and live in a house with several floors?

b) Tiled floors. Wheelchair users make a mess and drop stuff more often than able bodied people generally!  I do... Carpets are just no use in a kitchen with oil, flour, sauces, cereals, glasses etc. And powerchairs rapidly wear them out too if you use them a lot in the same spots like around a breakfast bar, oven, hob etc. Tiles are easy to clean and don't wear out!  And can be as cheap as carpets.,

I "vacuum" the floor with a petrol powered leaf blower (on blow!) and all the dust and dog hairs, cereals, bread crumbs and cobwebs just blow straight out into the garden! A mans "vacuum" cleaner!  Its fun, and works great for drying the car as well as clearing leaves and snow. When you are stuck in a wheelchair easy cleaning floors are essential Make sure its small light and four stroke and hold your breath!  Best not to poison yourself...

c) Lighting.  Its expensive to fit anything other than high efficiency florescent lights in a kitchen. Kitchen lights are usually on... And they last longer too. Much longer and I cant reach the ceiling to swap them from a wheelchair! 

d) Doors. While you are in the process of re-building the kitchen make sure you fit wide doors that are at least six inches wider than your powerchair or wheelchair if humanly possible. While you "can" get through a door that's just an inch wider its a pain in the bum every time you have to filter carefully through. Especially carrying a tray or having to line up exactly... Bigger is best. Fit the widest you can. And use the narrowest power chair possible.

e) Windows - more is better! Light is invaluable when cooking. If you are in the process of redesigning your kitchen look into as many big windows as you can fit! I like light and space! This is of course not just for the disabled!

Then eventually we get to the kitchen (& Kitchen Units)

In some ways this is actually much less important than the layout and where such things as dishwashers and washing machines are located and SPACE around them.

Make sure you have space to manoeuvre as usual!   Without that space to freely move these fancy pull out racked units and shelves that follow from here on are still not going to allow you good access or ease of use.

Its amazing how much room you really need in a kitchen in a typical powerchair.  Its possible to cope with less but when you have the room to move its just so much easier.


 breakfast bar high chairs

Medium kitchen | Huge Kitchen

Rather than a table I wanted a breakfast bar that was as small as possible (because it takes less space again leaving me more) but importantly was JUST high enough so that I could drive my powerchair complete with its arms and control pod under it. This means I can eat, build model helicopters, do fine work like circuit boards etc; easily and in comfort. It has no support pole/bar since I want that space for my legs. The chairs are just cheap tall draughtsman's chairs with adjustable everything and "soft roll casters" to suit the tiled floor. I cant sit on them so don't care!  The idea is that I can easily roll them away when I need to do so. And Vera or friends can also eat / drink here too.  Its high but does not look out of place and "disabled" or "adapted" which was the plan. Works great for me in a wheelchair and anyone else too!

Tall chairs in kitchen

Medium kitchen | Huge Kitchen  Another view of the same thing.  Note muck on floor.  Time for the petrol leaf blower...

Bigger Powerchair Under Worktop | Huge Powerchair Under Worktop  As shown here. This is fine for me to eat and drink or even prepare food. As I am fairly tall. It could be three inches lower though... The powerchair is home built since all bought ones are dismal - details can be seen here

oven with sideways opening door

Medium Oven | Huge Oven   Ovens generally open down and towards you. For a wheelchair user this side opening oven and microwave/grill is so much easier to use!  And both mounted at a height I can easily reach. And it goes without saying that it should be self cleaning! I couldn't use the original oven since the door is in the way when you open it. Again this doesn't look "adapted" and is equally usable by anyone.

Slide out draw

Medium Slide Out Draw | Huge Slide Out Draw   Every base unit has these slide out strong metal shelves or rails. It means that its easier for me in a wheelchair to access them. The thing is this only works because of the SPACE in the kitchen as you manoeuvre about around them. You need to be able to move away from them as you slide them out. Again this works great for everyone and does not look like an "adapted" or accessible kitchen.

Tall pull out wall unit accessible

Medium Tall Unit | Huge Tall Unit  All the tall units like this one pull open Meaning no trying to reach inside cupboards! This obviously makes things easier as you can reach everything whilst seated in a wheelchair. And again its just as easy for any able bodied members of the household. Again SPACE away from the unit is essential. If you cannot manoeuvre your powerchair freely around the opened door then it just makes things worse rather than better. These types of units require more space again. So if you don't have this space reconsider your address or a few walls!  Even the bin is located away from this end unit to allow me to drive totally alongside of it. Again you need the space. The kitchen fittings alone wont really help you.

Medium Tall Unit | Huge Tall Unit From other side!

corner carousel unit - accessible

Medium Carousel | Medium Carousel  Corner units are all carousel rotating shelves so I can reach the contents. This wastes some space but again its easier for all. And after seeing the state of this cupboard Vera is in trouble! :)

accessible wall unit

Medium Wall Unit | Huge Wall Unit  All of the wall units are also accessible. I can easily reach that bar, and just pull them down. Here its shown pulled "out" but not all the way down. The metal rack lowers almost down to the worktop height.  And its easy.

SPACE!  Bigger view Kitchen Space | Huge view Kitchen Space

Sleeping dog. It does this a lot. This was the real reason I fitted a new kitchen since it allowed me to rebuild the room bigger!  Removed walls, re-wired, re-plastered, re-tiled, re decorated and threw out tons of clutter and furniture all at the same time. Through the gap behind the dog is a huge fridge (full of beer mostly!) and a double door to the garden. There is nothing else in there. I like the space. No furniture.  Through the other doorway in the corner is another room with dishwashers, washing machines, dryers etc. That door is a more normal 33 inches.  My chair is about 25 inches wide. Its fine then, but with only 8 inches of clearance I should slow down a bit!  There is enough room to load dishwasher and washing machines etc but more would be better.  The kitchen itself is a relatively cheap and simple plain design. The reason it all works so well is the amount of room I now have to use it.


Other disabled friendly features are available from kitchen suppliers should you want them, such as Kitchen sinks that are empty underneath for your legs and that are height adjustable etc. Same with hobs. (Mine simply has the controls on the front edge and I can use that fine.) Or ironing boards that pull out and much more. But I personally don't need that ***.

And I don't want the house looking like its "disabled" converted either... I may want to move (to Thailand) and it needs to be saleable to anyone that may be interested in the future..

*** I think that's all Vera's job!  Ironing, washing, kitchen sink duties etc. I can say that because she doesn't read these pages...  I hope.

More of my adapted house for sale details here




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