Designers are offering up exceptional ADA-compliant kitchen design with accessibility in mind. Kitchen design is an ever-evolving process. It embraces functionality, balance, the perfect layout, smart storage solutions, proper lighting and ventilation and the right cabinetry choice. All while honouring style and esthetics. Exceptional design is an aspiration for most kitchen designers, and just as important, are wheelchair accessible kitchens built with ADA compliance in mind.

While ADA-compliant kitchens have advanced over the years, the reality is, there currently are more kitchens that don’t require ADA compliance than those that do. But with the senior population projected to increase and aging in place a viable option, we anticipate a shift in the kitchen design industry toward even more advancements to cater to that need.

In an effort to address that demand, designing with accessibility in mind is becoming an important consideration in residential architecture and design. In addition, kitchen furniture and cabinet manufacturers and suppliers are introducing innovative and cutting-edge systems to support and accommodate this growth.

Tips for great accessible kitchen design


An ideal layout should have a lot of maneuvering space and take into consideration all the needs of the user. You want to avoid areas that have cross routes and parallel surfaces, and limit travel distances between functional zones. Kitchen styles to consider are the single row (if you are limited for space), and L-shaped kitchen, a U-shaped kitchen, an L-shaped kitchen with an island, and a semi-island with at least 60 inches minimum of accessible space between counters and opposing sides.

Accessible Kitchen Design
The corner pull-out drawer under the kitchen counter makes it easier to access the contents inside. Photo: The Lifestyle Loft


Functional zones facilitate the process of prepping and making meals. It includes countertops and food prep zones, food storage, tableware and cutlery storage, a clean-up area, as well as cooking zones. The goal is to eliminate any barriers that can interfere with being able to comfortably work in the kitchen. Equally important, the design needs to consider the user’s motor skills in relation to their preferred movement if they are using a wheelchair, a walker or other mobility device. Whether right-handed or left-handed, they tend to use their dominant hand to use their device and the opposite hand to perform tasks such as opening drawers and moving things around.

Accessible Kitchen Design
Incorporate appliances with mobility enhancements. For example, a pull-out dishwasher drawer. Photo: Fisher & Paykel


This kind of design involves rethinking how kitchens function. That means adjusting sink and countertop heights; installing induction countertops and motorized cabinet systems; addressing knee and toe guidelines, incorporating appliances with mobility enhancements such as pull-out dishwasher drawers; incorporating smart storage solutions; and installing flooring that is as flat as possible with few grade changes. While ADA compliance takes centre stage, you don’t need to compromise in style and esthetics. Final finishes such as cabinetry, tile backsplash, and flooring still have a role to play in the design scheme. There is ample room to add character and texture, colour and to play with tones.

Accessible Kitchen Design
Enhance the kitchen design and functional capability with optimal lighting. Photo: Jorge de Jorge


The perfect mixture of ambient, task and accent lighting enhance the kitchen design while providing functional capability and access within the space. For those with a level of hearing loss, audibility is key and can be addressed by installing timer buzzers and smoke alarms to assist the user. Depending on the electrical code of your region, installing switches and receptacles within the cabinets and drawers that also store appliance can provide efficient access and use.

By Interior Designer, founder and creative director of The Lifestyle Loft | Produced by Reno & Décor

Launched in 1990, RENO & DECOR is Canada’s Home Idea Book, inspiring readers with the latest in tips and trends for their decorating and renovating.

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