Accessible Kitchen Cooking Area

The Cooking Area of this accessible kitchen contains a double oven, electric cooktop, range hood and microwave. These appliances have been configured so they are all accessible and easy to use as shown below:

Cooking Area Double Oven

There are numerous advantages to a double oven. The ability to bake two items at different temperatures is handy on occasion. Having the capacity to bake 4 or 5 cookie sheets at a time is really great at Christmas time.

I have installed the double oven at a height that works great for me in a wheelchair. It is low enough for me to easily reach the control panel at the top of the oven.

At the same time the oven is high enough to be at the perfect level for me to access and/or observe whatever is baking in the lower oven.

I can use the top oven as well for lighter contents such as cookie sheets but heavy items such as roasting pans need to be in the lower oven.

The double oven is on the end of a line of cabinets and adjacent to a walkway. This is a real advantage by allowing me to roll up closer to the inside of the oven when I'm accessing the contents of the oven.

Cooking Area Cooktop

I have a 4-burner Thermador electric cooktop with built in grill/griddle. The Cooking Area has two accessibility features associated with the cooktop. The cooktop is lowered and the cabinet under the cooktop can be opened so I can roll underneath.

Lowered Cooktop

As you can see from the picture, the cooktop is five inches lower than the standard 36" tall base cabinet. Although this doesn't sound like much of a difference the advantages it provides are huge.

It is so much easier to work with the contents of the pans when you can easily see and reach into them. For example, it's actually possible to get a reasonable angle with the spatula to flip a pancake or a burger at the lower height. At a traditional height it is nearly impossible to look into a large pot on a rear burner to see how the food is progressing. At the lower height it's not a problem.

Open Cabinet

The cabinet doors immediately below the cooktop are referred to as Flipper doors or Pivot Doors. They can be swung open and then slid straight back into the base cabinet; these types of doors are most commonly used to hide the television in an entertainment center.

With the doors slid out of the way there is an opening about 28" high and 32" wide that allows me to roll in much closer to the cooktop. Similar to the lower height feature, this ability to get closer to what you're cooking makes a world of difference when working at the cooktop.

Cooking Area Range Hood

We chose an under cabinet, slide-out range hood for the Cooking Area of our accessible kitchen. This decision was based primarily on the aesthetics of this style of hood. It is very unobtrusive since the majority of it is housed in the cabinet. When cooking, a portion of the range hood is slid out to capture the vapors coming from the cooktop. You can see this range hood in the operating position in the last picture.

From an accessibility perspective this range hood worked well. The control for the fan is just to the right of the slide-out portion and is easy to reach. It is also possible for me to clean the filter and other parts since it is low enough for me to reach.

Cooking Area Microwave

In this day and age the microwave is normally the most used appliance in the kitchen. Let's face it, today one could eat pretty darn well, even if the microwave was the only appliance you owned.

Since it is so heavily used it is important that the microwave be very accessible. This need for accessibility eliminates a popular class of microwave referred to as "Over the Range". This class of microwave would be difficult, in fact dangerous, for someone in a wheelchair to use.

In the Cooking Area of my accessible kitchen I decided to go with a countertop microwave. I roll up in front of the microwave and parallel to the counter. From this position it is relatively easy to access the contents of the microwave. This arrangement has worked well for me although there is room for improvement. I present some additional ideas in the Other Ideas and/or Improvements section.

Cooking Area Gas Grill

Although I really enjoy cooking in my accessible kitchen, I love to take it outside and hit the gas grill. Steaks, chicken, fish, sausage, burgers, hot dogs, corn, squash, onions, peppers, and tomatoes... I do them all. As you can see in the picture, I have modified my gas grill so that it is lower, similar to the cooktop. You can get more information in my blog on how to make an accessible grill.

Other Cooking Area Ideas and/or Improvements

After using this accessible kitchen for more than 10 years I have a few improvements to suggest. Many of them have been incorporated in the new house I'm designing.

Double Oven Improvements

The double over has worked absolutely great for me for more than 15 years. I plan only one improvement in my new home. I have positioned the double oven so that the adjacent walkway is to the left of the oven rather than the right. Since I am right handed this orientation will allow me to use my stronger and more coordinated hand to move contents in and out of the oven.

Cooktop Improvements

It is now possible to find gas cooktops that are nearly as thin as electric cooktops ??? about four inches. So for my new house I have decided to switch to a gas cooktop because of the many purported advantages that gas offers. I'll tell you in a year or two if that was a wise decision!

Another good choice for a cooktop today would be induction, if you can afford it. This relatively new technology has some unique benefits as well as drawbacks.

One possible addition to aid accessibility in the Cooking Area would be adding a Pot Filler over the cooktop. This is a plumbing fixture that allows you to add water to a pan as it sits on the cooktop. This would be nice, but personally I didn't think it was worth the investment.

Range Hood Improvements

We are going with a stainless steel, wall mounted, chimney-style range hood in the new house. This will be a better fit with the stainless steel appliances. Moreover, the gas cooktop is capable of generating a significant amount of heat which means the range hood's air handling capability must be quite large.

We have not yet decided on the specific model of hood to use. On some models it will probably be impossible for me to reach the control panel. Fortunately, many of the hoods have the capability to add a ?remote control panel that could be mounted well within reach.

The only other improvement in this area that I'm contemplating is possibly going with an external blower on the hood. The external blower is mounted on the outside of the building rather than in the hood itself. This greatly reduces the noise you will hear in the kitchen when the blower is cranked up.

Microwave Improvements

There are a couple ways to improve the accessibility of a countertop microwave. Next time I purchase a microwave I will select one with a smaller capacity. I never cook anything large in the microwave such as a turkey or roast. The advantage to a smaller microwave is there would be more space on the countertop in front of the microwave. This would provide a wider shelf where you can set the container you're cooking in to work with its contents.

I have seen two other methods for providing this shelf to hold the cooking container. One was to build a cutting board into the base cabinet that is immediately below the microwave. You can then pull this cutting board out a ways and use it like a shelf to hold the cooking container.

The second method was to have a special drawer in the top of the cabinet that's immediately below the microwave. This drawer has a board that slides along the top of it as shown in the picture to the right. This provides a surface to put the cooking container on to work with the contents.

A microwave oven can also be built into custom cabinetry. This can be done by placing a standard countertop microwave on a custom shelf in a wall or base cabinet. There are also microwave ovens that are designed to be built in to custom cabinetry similar to the way a wall oven is installed in cabinetry.

The accessibility of these built in microwaves depends largely on the height at which they reside. If they are mounted too high or too low it will be difficult to access their contents. To make them more accessible they should have some type of shelf available below them as discussed above.

Finally, there is the possibility to use a relatively new style of microwave that works like a drawer. An advantage of this style microwave is how easy it is to take the lid off of a cooking container and work with the contents without needing to remove the container from the microwave. When the cooking is complete, however, you do need to lift the container up and out of the oven.