Occupational Therapy Advice and Information
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Solutions to problems managing in the Kitchen:
- The height of the worktop is often a difficult one to resolve when there are a number of people needing to use them. Providing a uniform height throughout the kitchen would make sense, with specific areas being provided if a varying height is required.
- A 900mm high worktop is suitable for ambulant people but is too high for people who need to sit to prepare meals and drinks to manage.
- A 760mm high worktop with clear space below is suitable for wheelchair users but it may be possible for them to use a higher top, but no higher than 864mm otherwise they would have problems reaching the back of the worktop.
- It is important to have appropriate worktops either side of the work area so that people can set items aside every time they need to reposition themselves without having to move unnecessarily.
- Where possible, work surfaces should be continuous and designed so travel between the main appliances and task areas is minimised. This is especially important between the sink and the cooker, as even a small gap at the side of the cooker can be hazardous and it is usually much easier to slide hot pans off, rather than lift them.
- Pull-out boards are the best way to allow for varying height work space and are the best way to create additional work space for the seated/wheelchair user.
- Pull-out shelving for working near the oven or microwave ensures that a wheelchair user can easily insert or remove items from either a oven/microwave.
- The work surface should be 600mm deep with a rounded edge
- The work surface should have a smooth surface so that equipment using suction pads can be used.
- A work surface with colour contrasting chopping boards can be useful especially for visually impaired people.
- The work surface beside the cooker should be the same height as the cooker top, to allow a hot pan to be half-lifted, half-slid off the hob quickly, when necessary.
- The working sequence should be arranged to provide worktop/sink/worktop/cooker/worktop unbroken by a doorway or cross route, especially for wheelchair users
- Any primary work area must be accessible from either a side approach or from a straight on approach that then allows for knee space that will enable direct access below the work space.
- Anyone using a kitchen will need to use the sink area for significant amounts of time, which means that the area under the sink is a prime consideration for the creation of knee space and will allow a seated/wheelchair user full sink access without affecting other kitchen users
- By providing a knee space below the sink would enable clear worktop areas to be available to either and/or the left and the right of the sink, which would provide an excellent working area for all users.
- To create the knee space under a sink, it is important to choose a shallow sink basin otherwise it cannot be achieved.
- Consider providing additional knee space within the kitchen as well as under the sink by considering placing an island in the middle of the kitchen or on another wall where an opening makes sense. This will give more accessible work areas in the kitchen and therefore maximise the use for everyone.
- Provision of an adjustable height worktop may be the best option to consider if there are multiple users of the kitchen but can be an expensive provision. These come as both manual and electrically operated options and are provided through more specialist dealers
- If someone who uses a wheelchair only needs minimal access to the kitchen then consider providing a specific area within the kitchen which they can access. This could simply be done by:
- providing a lower 760mm worktop with knee space underneath it
- providing the necessary equipment for them to use , such as a microwave/worktop oven and kettle
- base unit to one side with pull out board to extend the available working area
- the base unit could also incorporate a revolving drawer or a pull out drawer so that access is maximised from a seated position
- Where a clear space has been provided under a work surface, a switched socket outlet should be positioned on the wall at the back of the worktop with the centre line no higher than 1000mm above floor level
- Where no space has been provided beneath a work surface, a switched socket should be positioned no more than 100mm above the work surface
- Switches and controls in the kitchen, where mounted on a wall without an intervening work surface, should be fully accessible to wheelchair users and mounted 900mm from floor level
- Consider equipping base units with sliding shelves that can be pulled out to access items from the rear of the drawer
- Consider a revolving/carousel unit within the wall or base unit so that access is improved. These units have the added advantage of increasing storage capacity
- Consider fixing narrow shelving to the interior face of the cabinet door as this will further maximise space and can be easily accessed
- Installing storage drawers instead of shelves work well although they will need heavy duty rollers that can handle increased weight but still slide easily
- Consider providing mobile storage units that can be moved around the kitchen as this provides more versatility
- If considering providing wall units specifically for someone in a wheelchair then the base of such a unit should be 300-350mm from the top of the work surface as this not only makes it accessible but also allows day to day items, such as sauce and vinegar bottles, to be positioned underneath it. Also ensure that the shelf height inside is no higher than 1150mm above floor level otherwise they will not be accessible
- Door handles on wall units should be easy grip D handles and fixed at the base of the unit
- Consider including a pull-down storage basket in the wall unit to maximise access
- Cupboard doors should swing open through 180 degrees as a 90 degree opening can be a hazard, especially for visually impaired people
- Cabinet edges should have rounded corners and edges to avoid risk of injury
- If providing knee space underneath the sink unit then provide a shallow bowl that is 125mm – 150mm deep as this can also be less tiring to use.
- The worktop adjacent to the bowl should be a minimum of 500mm wide
- Heat insulate the underside of an exposed sink to avoid the possibility of burns to knees and legs
- Taps should have lever handles with a quarter turn lever operation from off to full water flow
- Taps should have a swivel neck and be thermostatically controlled.
- Ideally mixer taps make it easier to manage but make sure there are clear markings to indicate hot and cold settings, which are especially beneficial for visually impaired people
- Fit the tap at the side of the sink bowl for easy access by seated Users wherever possible
- The best location for the sink is in a straight section of worktop and then by providing base cabinets to the right and left of the sink, with special features that will also enhance the workability of the space, will make the area very useful for everyone
- An accessible kitchen may feature either a conventional cooker or a separate hob and wall mounted oven
- The traditional cooker prevents any provision of knee space options and the only way this could work for a seated user/wheelchair user is if the cooker is fitted at the end of a work area so that access can be made from a parallel approach
- A cooker with a continuous ceramic surface is a better option than a standard gas or electric top because then pans and other containers can be slid over the hob with little effort and will minimise any spills
- Controls for the hob should either be at the front or side of the hob to reduce any risk of burning or scalding when reaching to operate it and should suit both left and right handed users.
- Controls should be configured to enable one handed use and should be easy to operate without requiring tight grasping or twisting of the wrist
- Consider providing a separate hob and wall mounted oven unit as this will allow for knee space below the hob unit, the underside of which should be insulated to prevent any possible burns or scalds of knees or legs
- The hob should be situated near to the oven with a preparation area in between them
- There should be an extractor hood over the hob and, if provided for a wheelchair user, have accessible controls no higher than 900mm from the floor
- The wall mounted oven unit should be installed at worktop height (at its mid level point) with either a drop down door or a pull-out board that can be drawn outward beneath the oven unit to prevent spill protection and also enable a seated user to use the door as an additional ‘shelf’ to then be able to transfer dishes onto the worktop safely without lifting
- There should be a deep base drawer unit underneath the oven housing unit and storage above it
- A side hinged oven door may be easier for a seated user but careful consideration about the position of the worktop needs to be made to ensure that lifting is minimised and where possible the dishes can be slid across from the oven to the worktop
- The oven should have slide-out, non-tilt, shelves
- The controls should be easy to use, with clear and easy to understand markings, and are fitted no higher than 1050 mm from floor level, especially if being used by a seated user.
When Worktop Heights and Surfaces are a problem:
Resolving problems with access to Work Areas: Looking at the provision of knee space under worktops
Providing solutions for problems with access to Storage in both Base and Wall Units –
Accessing the lower shelves, especially in base units, can be challenging for anyone but there are some simple solutions that will resolve this problem:
The biggest area of safety concerns in a kitchen concerns the choice of ovens and hobs, whether they are separate or a combined fitted/free-standing unit