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
Larger Kitchen |
Medium 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
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
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
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
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
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.
Medium 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!
Medium kitchen |
Huge Kitchen Another view of the same thing.
Note muck on floor. Time for the petrol leaf blower...
Bigger Powerchair Under Worktop |
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
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.
Medium Slide Out Draw |
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
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 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! :)
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.
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