Guide: Wheelchair Accessible Kitchen Design

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Last updated: April 9, 2023

Disabled people in wheelchairs have specific needs. Wheelchair users, by law, have the right to have an accessible kitchen design and work surface. Important considerations and advances in accessible design made it possible to create efficiencies in a work space, for example, and in beautiful kitchens that are ergonomic for all family members. The kitchen is an important room and must consider everything from small children to the short walking distance.

Other modifications can be made to on how much lighting is drawn through functional light switches and there is enough knee space to access the kitchen countertop.

One of the leaders in accessible kitchen design is Adam Thomas Consultancy, with years of personal experience delivering expert design and access for all. Their website has additional information but examples of beautiful kitchen designs.

Table of Contents

Main Requirements for an Efficient Kitchen

Easy access, such as using a wall oven and base cabinets, is key to developing an accessible kitchen design compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. You must follow five primary requirements:


Appliances should have a clear floor space of 30 inches by 48 inches positioned forward. General Electric sells ADA-compliant stainless steel appliances that provide a disabled resident with a better option to control hot burners from a single position.


An important factor to keep in mind is that cabinets must have 50% accessible shelf space. 


It must have clearance to allow adequate space where wheelchairs can move around in complete freedom. U-shaped kitchens must have a width of 60 inches, while pass-through kitchens must be 40 inches wide. 

Kitchen Sinks

As the kitchen’s most important detail, the sink must have no obstructions with a location of 28 to 34 inches above the floor. 


An unobstructed counter space section of 30 inches wide must be available.

Why Focus on Easier Access for Kitchen Designs

A universal design is not suitable for people with mobility issues. ADA-compliant kitchens (Americans with Disabilities Act), follows ADA guidelines to make accessible homes with a barrier layout that works for anyone, not just disabled Americans. An occupational therapist is also involved in determining special needs, usable space, and other accessible kitchen modifications.

An ADA kitchen is necessary if you or any family member is mobility impaired and uses a wheelchair or any other device. Considerations have to be made for accessible appliances, and everything from door openings, to unnecessary bending, to special features focused on drawer pulls, open door motion, oven doors, kitchen cabinets, garbage disposal, and even if there is enough space in a smaller kitchen considering the number of people that live in the home.

Americans with limited mobility need good planning support for the right places through inclusive design. These kitchens focus on the needs of the user, to ensure there is a wide section of unobstructed counterspace and that any custom cabinetry such as upper cabinets meets the personal needs and different needs of a home with disabled and non-disabled residents.

Your kitchen design features, like the inclusion of induction hobs, may vary depending on the other kitchen users and the required level of accessibility. Once you have determined your need for an accessible kitchen design, you can work with an expert who can help you with the basics, such as countertop height, cabinet height, and work triangle. 

People who prioritize independent living can also find the best solutions for work areas such as an electronic cooktop lift, storage space., seated position, counter height, wall cabinets, and fall worktops.

The secret to getting a new kitchen design that will work best for your needs is to plan all your needs now and in the near future.

Areas That Need Key Consideration for Accessible Kitchen Design

The following are the three critical areas you should focus on to create an accessible kitchen and functional family hub.

Appliance Access

Your oven, range, and other similarly heavy items must be in a position where they are easy to access. The height of a wall-mounted oven must be adjusted, or an easy to open under-counter oven can also be included. Choose a range that extends underneath and opt for an under-counter microwave.

A dishwasher drawer is more accessible than a standard dishwasher. Side-by-side opening refrigerators, under-counter refrigerators, and refrigerator drawers can also make everything more accessible. 

Clearance and Floorspace around Work Zones and Kitchen Island

A design that addresses mobility concerns must ensure enough open space to get through hallways, doorways, and in and out of a great room. The kitchen layout also requires ample space to maneuver in and out the kitchen workspace, around the dining table and island, and access the storage areas.

Other great ideas for accessible kitchen designs include the open plan kitchen designs popular for their air spaces and the open-access between the entertaining, dining, and kitchen areas. Slip-resistant, low-maintenance, and clear floor space is another essential must-have for accessible kitchens. 

Controls, Handles, Knobs, and Outlets

Another important way to remove the complexities of life is to choose accessories and hardware that are easier to maneuver and accessible. ADA standards also require handles that are less demanding to grip compared to knobs. Touch-control or single lever action faucets can also simplify washing hands, dishes, and food. 

It is also essential to consider the placement of lighting controls, electrical outlets, and other appliance controls to be more readily accessible. 

Sink and Countertops

Kitchen layouts consider work areas, which are also applicable to accessible kitchen designs. The first important step is to create a work area at an appropriate height and with suitable accessibility to meet all your needs. 

If you need to design wheelchair access, it may require installing a lower sink or countertop that opens underneath to facilitate ease of use. You can also add pull-out shelves beside the sink area for the cleaning supplies to stay handy.

Countertops with the rounded edge rather than corners are great for aging in place to prevent hitting against sharp edges. 


Think of the items in your kitchen that you need to access regularly and ensure that all essential storage is safely and efficiently accessible. You can do it in several ways, and you can focus on using adjustable cabinets with handy and customized roll-out shelves, drawers, and pull-outs. A reachable height for cabinets falls under requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Electric-controlled shelves or cabinets and pull-down shelves can also facilitate access to an upper kitchen cabinet storage, with the latter functioning at a mere touch of a button. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Accessible Design

Accessible design is the concept of designing homes that include features like zero steps, wheelchair maneuvering areas, and wider doorways. This even includes toe kicks, a recessed space beneath lower cabinets, where your toes can rest, and give you closer access to cabinet contents in different areas.

How Does an Accessible Design Look

The accessible design looks like any standard design but is easier to use and feels more spacious.

Who Can Benefit from an Accessible Design

Accessible design is suitable for everyone of all ages. Accessible design features can make people’s lives safer and even more comfortable. 

Why are there different terms used to refer to accessible design?

You might have encountered different terms for accessible design, including wheelchair accessible, universal design, aging in place, visitability, and barrier-free. 

These are the same concepts with technically just a few slight differences. While the brief term accessible design is typical, factors and ideas from the terms above are all incorporated. 

What matters here is that designs should make the spaces more available and accessible for everyone, which can benefit all family members.

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