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26 ACCESSIBILITY


strengths and weaknesses of the users so that these can be supported for maximum benefit. For example, if the homeowner or tenant is a wheelchair user, the most appro- priate layout may disregard the traditional ‘working triangle’ to give plenty of room for safe manoeuvring.


Once the most suitable layout has been


established, the specific requirements of critical appliances and accessories within the kitchen need to be examined. Raised height recessed plinths, for instance, are typically a pre-requisite in all accessible kitchens as they allow the height to be adjusted and set for the resident, whether they are ambulant or a wheelchair user. Units and cupboards will also need to be designed at the right height for the user. Base units should ideally have a reduced height of approximately 588 mm, while wall units should be fixed at 350 mm rather than the standard 450 mm above the worktop. They must be robust enough to withstand frequent contact with mobility aids, and all doors must be fitted with 170° hinges for ease of access. Sinks are also better if they are shallower in depth than standard, with 125 mm to 130 mm being ideal. Equally, drawers should be fitted with metal sides and runners for greater durability if the user leans on them for support and the choice of handles must accommodate for the dexterity of the resident.


In terms of flexibility, adjustable devices provide the optimum solution. Rise and fall units and worktops allow a kitchen to be altered at any time with the touch of a button. They come in a range of configura- tions and sizes to suit any room, and can be used to create flexible sinks, cupboards, hobs and preparation surfaces. With the option for multiple heights, this type of technology can make a room accessible for every user, truly future-proofing a home. The design of appliances can also have a huge impact on the accessibility of a kitchen. Consider installing tall oven housing units, where the centre shelf is set at the same height as the work surface, to allow for safe transfer. Models with slide-away doors are particularly useful for improved access. The choice of hob also requires thought, with induction options being especially safe as they can feature shut offs, shatterproof glass and residual heat indicators. Finally, colour and lighting are critical factors when designing an accessible kitchen, especially for the visually impaired. Contrast is extremely impor- tant, and using colours that have a light reflective value of greater than 30 will help to differentiate an object from its surroundings. Moreover, task-specific lighting, such as installing bright lights underneath cupboards to illuminate worktops where food is prepared, can


boost visual acuity (clarity) tremendously. Accessibility needs to be built into kitchens now to overcome the housing challenges ahead for the elderly and disabled. By designing a room around the needs of the user rather than the space available, it is possible to create a kitchen that will improve independence and wellbeing, as well as make the property comfortable and inclusive for all users in the years to come.


Stuart Reynolds is product manager at AKW Enq. 114


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Enq. 115 WWW.HBDONLINE.CO.UK


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