Accessible Kitchen Storage
When designing an accessible kitchen it is unlikely that storage is the first area you consider. The fact is, however, the approach taken to kitchen storage can dramatically impact the usability of the kitchen for someone in a wheelchair. A wide variety of stuff is stored in a typical kitchen including: cookware, bakeware, tableware, cutlery, common cooking ingredients and more.
To optimize accessibility in a kitchen you need to rethink where to store your stuff. In a typical kitchen some items are used frequently, such as daily or weekly. On the other hand there others that may only be used once or twice a year. In an accessible kitchen it is critical to store the stuff that's used frequently in the lower, or base, cabinets where it is easiest to access. The items that are rarely used can be stored on the upper shelves of the wall cabinets.
Kitchen Storage Drawers
Even prior to my accident we discovered that the most convenient way to store stuff in base cabinets was in large drawers, sometimes refer to as "pot" drawers. This is preferable to shelves behind single or double doors, which is typical. It simplifies access to everything in the cabinet especially what's in the lower back portion of the cabinet.
As you can see we have used drawers wherever we could. We store our everyday dishes, glasses and cutlery, most cookware and bakeware, and all common cooking ingredients in drawers for easy access.
Moreover, we have arranged the most frequently used stuff in drawers close to the dishwasher. I can pull up to the dishwasher to unload it and reach seven drawers without needing to move. This really facilitates the unloading process.
In order to provide the best access to the base cabinet in the corner we installed a Lazy Susan unit as shown in the picture to the right. You can spin the carousel until the item you want to reach is in the front opening.
Kitchen Storage Wall Cabinet Height
Another possibility to improve access is to mount the wall cabinets lower than the typical 18" above the countertop below. We mounted ours at 15" above the countertop which allows me to reach things on the lowest shelf in most of the wall cabinets.
Kitchen Storage Pantry
Having some form of pantry in the kitchen is a real bonus since it can be used to conveniently store food, tableware, linens and other provisions. There are a variety of pantry types; unfortunately most are not very accessible. Most walk in pantries have a narrow door and aisle which prevent wheelchair access. Most pantries that are built into the kitchen cabinets provide relatively good access to items on the doors but difficult access to items located on the rear of shelves.
We incorporated our pantry into the wall that separates our formal dining room from our breakfast room. The pantry is about eight feet long and two feet deep. Since it has sliding doors it's easy for me to roll up parallel to the doors and reach into the pantry. I can reach all the way to the back giving me complete access to most of the shelves in the pantry.
Providing easy access to the stuff I use frequently has allowed me to operate independently in our accessible kitchen. Rearranging how items are stored in your kitchen can be a quick and inexpensive way to increase your kitchen's accessibility.