While cooking may seem like a simple task for many, it can be difficult for someone with limited mobility. Over 30 million people in the United States have trouble walking, and approximately 20 million have difficulty lifting or gripping objects. When provided with the right tools, cooking can instill confidence in anyone, including those that face challenges due to illness, injury, or age.
After all, being able to prepare food for yourself is an act of independence, creativity, and self-expression. Creating a meal can be an escape, and everyone should be able to take part. Luckily, a more accessible kitchen might be the only thing between you and a newfound sense of freedom.
There are both mental and social benefits of being able to cook for yourself, but, unfortunately, the average kitchen isn’t designed for accessible cooking. Over time, this lack of accessibility has sparked several creative and innovative solutions and also, simultaneously, helped drive the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement. In an attempt to further enrich your lives with people’s ingenuity over the years, we’ve compiled some of the best tips for making the kitchen a safe, supportive, and fun place for all.
An Accessible Kitchen Doesn’t Have to Be Built
A common misconception when creating an accessible kitchen is that you need lots of money and time to rebuild the entire space. But a kitchen designed for safety, stability, and comfort can be created without major home renovation projects that break the bank. There are small, creative modifications you can easily make—most without complicated tools or the need to bring a professional into your home.
In fact, lots of people don’t realize that there are several easy improvements you can make from items you may already own or can easily order online to help you make your cooking dreams come true. With these DIY tips, you’ll be able to design a kitchen that works for you and doesn’t cost a fortune in time or money.
Accessible Kitchen Tip #1: Brighten Your Workspace
Good lighting, both overhead and under your cabinets, is vital to your meal-making process. A well-lit workspace keeps you safe when handling sharp or hot objects, helps you make exact measurements, and eases the overall strain on your eyes. Options for improving your lighting can vary in the expense and effort needed to install. For easy upgrades, you can add small lamps to dark corners or add inexpensive LED string lights and easy-mount touch lights under cabinets.
For overhead lighting, you can get a friend or family member to install a new ceiling light with higher wattage, or even replace the bulbs with WiFi-enabled smart bulbs that can be controlled with a voice device. All you would have to do is say, “Alexa (or another smart brand), turn on kitchen lights,” and those lights would turn on for you without ever pressing a button! This is especially useful at night or early in the morning, so you aren’t fumbling for a light switch.
If you’d like to invest a little more in your kitchen lighting, you can choose to have under-cabinet lights, recessed lighting, or even permanent motion-sensing lights installed by a handyman. Whatever option you choose, upgrading your lighting is crucial to an accessible kitchen.
Accessible Kitchen Tip #2: Add Easy Hardware Improvements
We have more options than ever to customize our kitchens, thanks in part to stores like IKEA and online retailers such as Amazon. What used to require labor-intensive planning and redesign can now be installed or changed with an electric drill and a steady hand. Consider solutions like pull-out drawers in your lower cabinets and pull-down shelving for your upper cabinets.
These are often inexpensive upgrades that not only help organize your kitchen but bring less-used items within your reach without having to crouch down or use a step stool. Pull-down shelves swing down from the high-up cabinets where they usually sit, so you can see exactly what options you have to cook with. These easily accessible shelves also allow you to reach for the items you select without having to worry about dropping anything or pulling a muscle.
In addition to upgrades inside your cabinets, don’t forget to update the outside too. Replace loose, worn, or hard-to-grip pulls on your drawers and cabinet fronts with hardware designs that are easier to grab with less hand strength. And for your sink, you can add faucets with touch or motion sensor controls that make it easier to use and help conserve water.
Accessible Kitchen Tip #3: Get Smart With Appliances
As mentioned previously, there are many smart devices and apps around today that were developed to make people’s lives easier. You can also take advantage of the convenience and efficiency of modern-day innovations with easy-to-use appliances.
While a new oven, fridge, or dishwasher can be an investment, you’ll be able to cook safely and with ease when using these newer models. Ovens can now be equipped with safer induction cooktops, one-touch buttons on the front, and roll-out cooking racks. Your refrigerator can be smarter too, with freezer drawers, water and ice dispensers, and even screens that show you what’s inside! Lightweight doors on all your appliances can also make them easier and safer for users of all ages and abilities.
Accessible Kitchen Tip #4: Get Organized
One low- or no-cost upgrade you can make to gain a more accessible kitchen is to stay as organized as possible. We all deal with a messy kitchen sometimes, but with a little planning and organization, you can make things much easier for yourself.
Be sure to remove any clutter and keep your most-used items within easy reach. Lower the microwave if needed—rehoming it, for instance, to the counter. Use organizational tools to keep everything in sight in drawers and cabinets and always put items back in the same place so you can find them in a pinch. If you have to store less-used items up high or very low, be sure not to stack heavy things together. If you need to add storage, a cart or small island with locking wheels can be both practical and stylish.
Accessible Kitchen Tip #5: Get the Support You Need
Cooking can be a very active and hands-on event. If you experience pain or fatigue after being on your feet for too long, keep a comfortable chair or stool nearby for support. You could also install sturdy handrails to help when carrying things around. A truly accessible kitchen will help you move around comfortably and without fear, so you can maintain your sense of independence.
If you do add a chair or stool, make sure it can help no matter where you are in your kitchen; otherwise, it could get in the way. Some special chairs are actually designed for improved mobility around your home and in small spaces. They can include features to raise or lower your seat, move around with greater ease, and provide more stability when you need support.
Accessible Kitchen Tip #6: Find Adaptive Tools Designed for You
Even the smallest items in your kitchen can be improved. Affordable adaptive knives and flatware are easier to grip and maneuver, and glasses with a heavy or rubber bottom are less likely to be tipped over on accident. If you’re concerned about breakage, perhaps opt for silicone “glassware.” You can also benefit from several other common adaptive kitchen tools, like rubber jar grippers to help open lids, electric can openers, food processors, stand mixers, and containers with locking lids.
Although it is a less common kitchen tool, a reacher or grabber can extend your reach and bring jars, bottles, and boxes right to your fingertips. The possibilities are virtually endless! Don’t force yourself to stick with traditional kitchen equipment if it adds any stress to your routine. More and more devices are being created every day to help you around the kitchen and the rest of your home.
Accessible Kitchen Tip #7: Use Your Time Wisely
Whenever possible, take your time and make the most of it! Simple changes like planning your shopping trips ahead of time and keeping your most-used items on hand can go a long way. Prepping your ingredients in advance can help you break up the work for larger, more complex meals and make cooking in your accessible kitchen more pleasant. And when you’re in need of a quick meal, having easy-to-cook or no-cook food can be a great way to back yourself up and give yourself a break.
Learn More About Assistive Devices for an Accessible Kitchen—and Rest of the House!
Now that you have a good idea of what you need to make your kitchen more accessible, you can return to cooking and doing other things you love. Too many people think they have to stop doing what they need to do or what they enjoy simply because of an illness, injury, or the difficult effects of aging. With all the modern developments in technology and knowledge, it’s about time we change that.
Check out this FREE resource to make the rest of your home—or even your work office—more accessible despite any physical challenges. You can improve your life in so many ways once you know how. Don’t wait—keep learning!