Wheelchair Accessible Design at #molehill: The Sink Centre


The NKBA Kitchen Planning Guidelines with Access Standards are more than just your average planning tool. They provide the designer with critical dimensions based upon sound anthropomorphic study. For kitchens with clients, who happen to be in a wheelchair, it's ever more important to ensure that there are functional solutions to ensure the high-quality of life.

The Kitchen Centre Concept

For those of you in the club (the Certified Kitchen Designer club) you'll know that the kitchen is planned around the centre concept. For a wheelchair accessible kitchen in a small condominium with limited space, the sink centre becomes the most important centre in the entire kitchen.


The sink in this design solution became the only available area that the client can wheel under. The 36" wide x 60" long and 36" T-Bar turn is noted on the floor plan and we must note these clearances on plans because they are critical. It's also noted that the flooring is finished under the sink because there is no harm in providing a bit more communication than too little communication.

The Fixtures and Fittings

It might be too simple to state this, but for a client in a chair to work at the kitchen sink it must have a set-back drain so that the P-Trap can also be set back. You'll see what I mean in the detail drawing view, but essentially the arm, legs, and feet need to be safe and wheel under. It might also be too simple to state that the faucet must be a pulldown with spray and stream settings. For the client to set a pot on the counter and fill it with the pull-down is a great advantage. A soap dispenser is also being included to aid in ease of food-handling.


These fixtures have been lovingly donated by BLANCO Canada Inc. I truly thank them for their willingness to partake in the client's quality of living.

The Sink Wall Elevation

Oh the amount of revisions to this kitchen sink wall elevation to get it just right. I think there were about 18 different renditions (no jokes.) You can see from the interior view that it's not your standard kitchen. There are open shelves to the left and right of the sink so the client can access her day-to-day dinnerware and help themselves. There is also a special sink construction detail so that their legs and their feet fit nicely under to roll right in. There is always one thing to remember about designing for wheelchair accessibility: rules are out the window and if the client wants standard heights, they can have them.


A Final Thought

Every client is different, and every situation is different, but understanding your clients design needs trump the pretty stuff every time. For this project, there is a clear budget for the entire home but the kitchen is only a fraction of that budget. The design solutions needed to be creative and it needs work for the client. Design is first about the negotiation and navigating choices to arrive at the solution and only secondary is the aesthetic. It's all fine to have a pretty kitchen, but if it doesn't function extremely well then it was a complete waste of time.