Residential ADA Cabinets

Here's some invaluable first-hand advice: a paraplegic woodworker describes the accessible designs that work in his own kitchen. September 3, 2011

We are providing cabinets for a new house being built for a very close friend of ours that was severely injured in a logging accident two years ago. He's 32 and totally wheel chair bound. I've done ADA spec'd things for commercial, but nothing on this more personal level. I'd really like some help to go above and beyond ADA.

Forum Responses
(Cabintemaking Forum)
From contributor D:
I've been a professional woodworker for 25 years, the last 18 of which I've been in a wheelchair, the result of a motorcycle accident. Since then I've built a new shop, a new house, and all the cabinets and furniture for it.

The main things for me that have made my house easy and comfortable to use are: lowering the counter heights wherever possible, making as many places open to rolling a wheelchair under as possible, an island in my kitchen with a section of countertop at 30" high that I can roll into, and a section of 36" high bar top so that my friends and family can hang out with me. I put a gas cooktop in a 32" high counter that I can roll under. My kitchen sink had to go into 36" high countertop because I couldn't find a dishwasher less than 34-1/2" high. It still works okay, but lower would have been better. There might be shorter dishwashers out there now - that might be worth looking for. I also built a desk into the kitchen that gets used quite a bit. My lower cabinets are all drawers, because it's difficult to reach into the back of shelves. My upper cabinets are about 16" above the countertops, so I can still easily reach the lower shelves.

From the original questioner:
Hard to find any better advice than that - thanks much.

It's a U shaped layout with 45 degree diagonal full round lazys in the corners. We're going to use a 32 1/2 high dishwasher and a drop-in range on 34" counters. (Can't juggle the separate oven/cook top setup.) Full access under the sink, almost all drawers and lower uppers, not sure how low yet - maybe 15" clearance. Have you seen any hardware that gives better access to uppers?

From contributor D:

It's too bad you can't accommodate a separate cook top and oven. I had a drop in range in my old house, and it was inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst. Hopefully you won't have to put the range in a corner - that makes it even harder. Try sitting in a rolling office chair in front of a range and cooking with 2 or 3 pots and pans at once. I don't know the extent of your friend's disability (I'm a T-3 paraplegic) but if I was faced with the layout you're using, I'd skip the range, put in a cook top I could roll under, and put a toaster oven on the counter.

From the original questioner:
The fridge, range and sink are all centered on the separate runs. There is a spot, but available storage becomes an issue. It's to the left of the fridge next to a wall. I could add some drawers at another spot under what was going to be open. I saw an oven that had a left swing door, instead of down, that would work well there. Well... methinks I'll revisit this cook top issue with him. He had head and back injuries. The back ruined below the waist. The head injury caused strokes with surgery that left him with a bit of speech and right side impairment - wrist and fingers mostly. Tough kid. He has zero mental issues. Thanks again for the thoughts.