Inclusive kitchens for special needs

A kitchen is a special place, a space where we can be creative and demonstrate our love for others by preparing and sharing meals, a space in which we feel useful and needed. This applies to most of us, irrespective of our age or abilities, therefore, designing a kitchen that accommodates the needs of those with special needs is far more than just an issue of practicality, but one of inclusivity and wellness too.

Designing an inclusive kitchen requires specific expertise, and there are consultants and designers who specialise in this, but here are a few important tips:


Kitchens designed for people in wheelchairs need a turning circle of no less than 1500mm; more to accommodate additional people using the kitchen at the same time. The layout of the kitchen should require as little maneuvering of a wheelchair as possible to perform various tasks such as preparation, cooking, washing-up etc.



The height of countertops needs to be adjusted to suit people in wheelchairs. Countertops are typical 900mm high, but may need to be lowered to as little as 700mm for persons in wheelchairs, the height of the wheelchair armrests is a good indication. Adjustable worktops are ideal, although consideration needs to be given to manual operation vs electric operation when designing for people with limited strength and movement.

The width of countertops needs to be reduced to ensure that wheelchair-bound people can reach to the back of the counter.

Countertops must also have a knee recess, enabling people in wheelchairs to get close to the work area, suggested clearance is around 700mm high and 200mm deep.


Sinks should allow for the same height and knee clearance as mentioned above. Positioning the drain of the sink at the rear of the sink and using flexible plumbing is advisable. Taps should be to the side, rather than at the back of the sink for easy access.


All appliances should be positioned for easy access and safe usage i.e. a counter-height fridge and freezer rather than top-bottom fridge freezer.

Hobs should be flameless and be no higher than 800mm. Burners should be staggered so the person can reach the back burners without risking getting burnt. A pull-out stove is practical and safe solution

Oven doors should open to the side or have a retractable door, and there needs to be a slide-out shelf beneath the oven to put hot items on and to protect the person’s lap


Due to access requirements, bottom cabinets below a working countertop are not ideal in an inclusive kitchen, but when included they should be wall mounted allowing some toe and knee clearance. Pull-out draws are preferable to standard cupboards as it is almost impossible to access the far recesses while seated in a wheelchair; Lazy Susan (rotating) cabinet shelves will alleviate this problem.

Touch release drawers and doors with a wide angle hinge (as mush as 170 degrees) make for easier access and operation.

Mobile bottom cabinets that can be pulled out from beneath the counter are both practical and give added storage.

Top cabinetry needs to be cleverly designed for access, electric-power controlled cabinets that are lowered by controls or pull-down shelves with looped pulls for easy grip are good options.

Superior’s cabinet components can be custom-made to suit all of these requirements. Their expert team of designers and project managers are experienced in working with specialist consultants and developing the perfect solution.


Most home accidents occur in the kitchen so it makes sense that safety is a top priority in any kitchen design, but even more importantly in an inclusive kitchen. In addition to the normal precautions, ensure that the kitchen has bright lighting, opt for touch controls on appliances rather than knobs or dials, flameless or induction hobs prevent risk of burns and fire, and single lever taps at wash-up sink and prep basin make temperature control easier.

Image credits:
. a) b) Shutterstock
3. a) Shutterstock b)
4. Shutterstock

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