Universal Design for Kitchens

Learn the basics about how to make your kitchen safe, comfortable, and accessible for everyone.

Utilize the principles of universal design to ensure your home meets the needs of all people. The worldwide movement applies to everyone, so it's sometimes called "aging in place" or "design for all." No matter the name, the theory remains the same: Your home should be welcoming and accessible to a wide variety of people, regardless of their age, size, or ability.

Outfitting your kitchen with universal design elements can make working in the space more convenient for everyone. As you set out to design your kitchen, it's important to carefully weigh the options between certain appliances, sinks, and other everyday fixtures. Here are some easy ways you can incorporate universal design into your kitchen:

  • Surfaces: Choose surfaces that are easy to clean and care for. Solid-surfacing, such as granite and laminate, is a great option.
  • Lighting: Natural light is the best, so make sure your kitchen features plenty of windows. Install task lighting above work zones to ensure safety.
  • Flooring: Choose comfortable, slip-resistant flooring, such as cork, to make moving throughout the kitchen safe for everyone.
  • Contain hazardous elements: Keep cleaning supplies and other hazardous materials out of reach of small children by outfitting your cabinets with safety locks. As kids get older, consider storing those chemicals in a taller cabinet.
  • Faucet: A single-lever faucet ensures ease of use for people of all abilities. Touch-on or touchless faucets are also easy to use.
  • Contrasting colors: A band of bold, contrasting-color tile around the perimeter of the kitchen can help people who are visually impaired make their way around the room.
  • Open storage: Open shelving makes it easy to find items in a snap.
  • Glass doors: Glass-front cabinetry keeps items contained but makes it easier to see where they're stored.
  • Pull-out storage: Outfit your cabinets with pull-out shelves to make it easier to grab items that are located near the back of the space. 
  • Dish storage: Keep bowls and plates in a lower cabinet to make it easier to put them away after cleaning.
  • Kitchen island: Islands are great additions to any kitchen space. Make sure yours has at least 42-58 inches of space around it to offer maximum mobility for all.
  • Microwave: Installing the microwave in an island base will ensure people of all ages and abilities can reach it.
  • Varied counter heights: Vary the height of the countertops throughout your kitchen so that everyone can have a place to work, regardless of their size or ability.
  • Hardware: Choose large handles for the cabinets and drawers throughout your kitchen. D-shape pulls are the easiest to grab.
  • Refrigerator: Opt for a side-by-side refrigerator model to make it easy for people in wheelchairs to access both the fridge and freezer.
  • Wall oven: Wall ovens can be installed at any level, making them perfect options for people with limited mobility.
  • Dishwasher: Elevate your dishwasher a few inches off the ground to increase the accessibility for people with limited mobility.
  • Space beneath sink and stove top: Include a recessed niche beneath your sink and cooktop so that people who use a wheelchair or other mobility device can reach the area.
  • Pot filler: Installing a pot filler faucet over the stove top negates the need to carry a pot full of water to and from the sink.

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