How to Obtain a More Accessible Kitchen without a Major Renovation

close up photo of dishwasher
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My husband and I are both wheelchair users. We’ve lived in our home a little over 10 years. Before that, we lived in apartments, where we were limited in what we could do to adapt our home. While it sounds appealing to modify everything to our preferences, it’s expensive and we also want our home to be comfortable for our kids, two of which are average size and nondisabled. 

Like most families, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Admittedly, I am NOT the chef of the family yet I want to access as much as I can. With three growing kids, it feels like we’re constantly feeding someone! Here are a few ways we’ve organized our kitchen to be accessible for us.

Side-by-Side Refrigerator

Ourside-by-side refrigerator lets me reach both the freezer and the refrigerator equally. With iLevel® technology on my Stretto Power Wheelchair, I can reach everything from the top to the bottom. I’m inspired by TikTok organizers, so I hope to better organize these areas in the future. For now, we try to keep stocked on freezer items our teen and tween can make on their own in between meals and staples for our youngest, who seems to survive on pancakes lately!

Using an Air Fryer

I find our air fryermore accessible than the stove and oven in some ways because the drawer is lighter to lift. This means it cooks less quantities of food. Still, it’s been a great way to make fish, fries, and vegetables. 

Creating an Accessible Kitchen Island

We made our most significant renovation to the kitchen right before we moved in with a lowered kitchen island. The previous island had a set of cabinets, drawers above, and those were topped by a counter. My father-in-law is a skilled carpenter. He used a plane saw to cut the drawers off and replaced the countertop on top of the remaining cabinets. It’s perfect height for us to roll under. Our kids can eat or work at while seated in a regular chair, instead of a bar-height chair. Even if it weren’t for the accessibility factor, my dare-devil toddlers would not have fared well with bar-height chairs!

Embrace Kitchen Gadgets and Tools

Don’t listen to the ableist hype that kitchen gadgets are for lazy people. Sure, there will always be products that don’t do what they claim. There are also many tools for the kitchen that make life more accessible. Cutting tools for apples and grapes have gotten a lot of use in our kitchen. They are easier and safer for me than just using a knife. 

Our kitchen is functional for us right now but there’s always room to dream for the future. As the kids get older, a stove-top with controls on the front rather than the back is something I want to explore. I’d love to hear about your kitchen setups, so feel free to find me on Instagram @KaraAyers or Twitter @DrKaraAyers. 

About Kara Ayers: Kara is a mother of three and lives in Ohio. She is an associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. In 2021, Kara spoke to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Equity Taskforce about the need for people with disabilities to access the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to learn more about Kara.

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