Kitchen Design Tips – Part 3

Designing for Accessibility

Care and consideration should be taken during the design stages to ensure you are providing suitable means for access to the kitchen appliances and spaces to enable efficient use of the space.

If your future occupier of the kitchen is known, you can determine their exact requirements for the kitchen, and design according to their needs. However, if you do not know who the future occupier will be, it is advisable to meet some basic standards to ensure there is the facility to adapt as required.

A fully accessible kitchen often includes many electrical systems that are used to adjust work top heights and so on. These systems are costly, and it should be considered whether or not they are necessary, or whether good design can allow for suitable access, and flexibility to the end user.

The space

Sometimes, it is considered beneficial to incorporate a living dining area with the kitchen, to allow for a more open plan layout. This in itself gives improved space and access, particularly for wheelchair users. It has also become a preferred option, to make the task of preparing food a more social one, and allow the occupants to share the space together.

Ensure clear manoeuvring space not less than 180x1500mm.


The layout of the kitchen should aim to allow a number of tasks to be carried out from one position, to reduce amount of movement required throughout the space. The key to a good kitchen design for wheelchair users is a layout which provides effective use of the space.

It is best to try and reduce circulation routes directly through the kitchen to avoid clashes with the kitchen user.

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According to Lifetime Homes manual additional good practice to consider:

“Plan kitchen layouts, whenever possible, so that they include, or can be re-fitted to provide, a continuous run of units unbroken by doorways, that includes:

  • a built-in oven at an accessible height beside a minimum 600 mm width of work surface
  • a hob beside a further minimum 600mm width of work surface
  • a sink/drainer

This continuous run, uninterrupted by doorways (approximately 3600 mm in length measured along the front face) could be straight, L-shaped, or U-shaped. Space for other typical ‘white goods’ and fittings can be available elsewhere in the kitchen (only the oven and hob need to be contained within this particular length of run). Windows should not be located behind the hob.

Provide a clear 1500 mm diameter circular, or 1400 mm × 1700 mm elliptical, manœuvring space between floor level and a minimum height of 900 mm, for the benefit of wheelchair users.”

Controls, Sockets and Lighting

When designing locations of appliance controls and power sockets, ensure that the items are accessible for a range of people, and for people who have limited dexterity. Plug sockets or switches above a deep worktop high on the wall may not be within reach for a wheelchair user, consider locations that would be more accessible.

Keep switches and sockets away from corners to ensure accessibility.

Aim to include task specific lighting, such as under unit lighting to improve lighting over work surfaces. As always, consider natural daylight wherever possible.


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Knee recesses

A wheelchair user needs space under the worktop at a hob, sink and other critical points in order to operate equipment, reach controls and other essential tasks. Allow for knee recesses under the worktops next to major kitchen appliances to enable suitable access for a wheelchair user. Knee recesses should be a minimum of 600mm wide.


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Pull out worktops can be useful next to a knee recess area to create more workspace, provide a lower surface and to maximise operations from one position.

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Heights and depths of work surfaces & units

Allow for variable work surface heights, in the region of 750mm – 910mm. Consider worktop heights to allow a wheelchair user to be positioned comfortably at the worktop. The depth of a work surface should be no greater than 600mm.

A clear width of 1200mm minimum should be provided between the front of any unit or appliance and the obstruction opposite (other fittings or walls).

In the case of a shared use kitchen, it could be possible to design adjustable sections, for example worktop with sink and worktop with hob.

Appliances & Sinks

The housings and positioning of appliances should be carefully considered to ensure ease of approach and use. Door openings should be specified for ease.

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Sinks should be shallow to enable a wheelchair user suitable approach. The underside of the sink should have protective insulation to shield the legs of the user. The waste pipe should be to the rear of the bowl. An integral drainer is also useful to be included.


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Storage can be difficult when designing for a wheelchair user as they need to approach under worktops and also have a limited reach. Generally, storage needs to be within 300mm-1500mm and not deeper than 300mm whether above or below the work surface.

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Storage trolleys can be useful as a solution. Other considerations can include: large carousels, pull out units into deeper spaces, cantilevered shelf brackets, or doors that open beyond 90˚.

A trolley can also double as a vehicle to transfer items, for example from the oven to the worktop and so on.

Handles to cupboards and drawers should be robust and easy to see and use.

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Operation of taps

Hot and cold water taps should be provided with controls that allow use for people with limited dexterity. For example, a lever tap with a quarter turn.

A swivel arm will also be useful to allow for filling pots etc.


There are many other items to consider, especially to suit certain individuals needs. For more information check out the following websites:

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