Accessbile Kitchen

Designing the Perfect Accessible Home

Building your own home is a joyous stress filled experience. When you begin to think about all of the changes needed to design a wheelchair accessible home the pressure mounts. My wife and I began this journey 18 months ago, shortly before getting married. We put both of our houses on the market and began design plans with an architect. Being that our houses were only doors apart in the same suburban neighborhood meant that we were competing for the same buyers. That wasn’t awkward at all right? Alas, we survived and fortunately so did our marriage. When you are dealing with a mixed ability family it can be challenging to find design aspects that are comfortable for everyone involved.

My wife and I had discussed and agreed on most of the major aspects of our future home before we were married. We both agreed that we wanted to have a guest room for out-of-town family to visit. It should be comfortable but not so spacious that any sibling would be tempted to move in if they lost their job or ended up divorced. We agreed that we wanted a one level home, not only because of my wheelchair, but because in the future there is a very high probability that my wife will have joint issues due to high impact competitive sports she played in high school and college. We agreed that the home should have 4 1/2 bathrooms. We each have our own master bath that suits our tastes and individual needs, Bella has her own private bath, and there is a full bath for the guest suite. We had originally planned on 3 1/2 baths but then we considered the horrible suffering that any guest would be forced to face by sharing a bath with a teenage girl. Can someone explain to me why you need 20 hair products, lotion, moisturizer, facial cleanser, body wash, and hand soap?

There are many wheelchair friendly aspects to a home that even I had not anticipated in dealing with in the process. How wide did we want the hallways? Was it necessary to be able to turn around in the hallway or should we go with standard hallways? I was perfectly fine with standard 3 foot wide hallways as my living arrangements at home always had them. Jessie wanted them to be made wider so we went with a 6 foot wide hallway to the bedroom wing. I said that I wanted wider door frames, this was the only real request I had demanded in the home. Give me a nice large shower and give me wide door ways. The rest will work itself out. My dear sweet wife could not find a single wider door that she found appealing, so we went with french pocket doors in every room. Instead of paying for one door we now had the added expense of dual sliding double doors. She did design an incredible 6×9 stone master shower for me that included massage jets, rain shower head, hand held sprayer, and light therapy. Our master baths are joined by an open hallway and see through fireplace. After seeing the bathroom I decided that my wife only wanted my comfort and the money would be made again. We decided that we would use a stone tile that imitated the look of wood throughout the house for durability as well as easy cleaning. The floor has held up very well against the our animals and my wheelchair, and it was cheaper than wood so I think we made the right choice. Bella has an 11×13 area rug underneath her bed so that she isn’t hitting the cold tile in the morning. Even though we have radiant floor heat, tile isn’t the same as wood at 6am when you’ve just woken up. I had suggested a nice area rug for our bedroom as well, but Jessie said she was fine with the tile and she did not want to make things more difficult by adding a rug. Now that the bedrooms were out of the way it was time to move on to the kitchen and living areas of the house.

The living room and family room were quite easy. Spacious rooms with tile floors. The only choices to be made were wall colors and fireplace designs and stone. The dining room presented a small challenge when she changed tables twice and then wanted to enlarge the room. She eventually felt comfortable with her choices and that I had plenty of room to get around even with people seated. I reminded myself that she worried out of love and I was lucky to have a wife who cared so much. Our dual office was done the minute she stepped inside. This was a woman with a plan! I said you know this house building stuff isn’t half bad. What was I worried about?

The kitchen.. Oh Lord, why have you forsaken me?? Did you know there are approximately 22 millions styles of kitchen cabinets and 9 shades of white to choose from? Not cream, ivory, or tapioca, 9 shades of plain white! After 3 weeks of staring at sample doors we had settled on a cabinet door. I felt that the hardest part was over at that point. The bathrooms were done, the bedrooms were finished with furniture picked out, living areas finished, and we finally settled on a cabinet door. Praise Jesus! I went to bed that evening with a smile on my face thinking my marriage was back on track. Jessie climbed in bed with a sad look on her face. I said what’s wrong Sweetheart? I thought you were happy today. Once again my wife crushed my dreams when she said, “I don’t think I want white”.

Are you freaking kidding me people? How hard is it to pick a cabinet color? I thought okay, I won’t get involved in the color scheme. After all it was her kitchen and I did like the cabinet style. Well people, it turned out that the cabinet door only came in white. After contemplating a quickie divorce I decided it was cheaper at this point to stay married. Sorry, I meant to say I love my wife and whatever she would have chosen would certainly be okay by me. It is her kitchen after all isn’t it? Another 3 weeks had passed with no kitchen in sight. We looked at every color of the rainbow. She found an adorable shade of baby blue that tickled her funny bone, but she hated the style of the cabinets. She never found another cabinet that she liked as much as those white ones. That would be white in shade 7 in case you were wondering. At this point I had a complete and total breakdown. How would we ever decide on appliances, counters, backsplashes, or anything else when she was content to sit on our current floor and stare at 10 cabinets doors laying against the wall? I had an epiphany during this moment and called our contractor. Can you have these doors made and then painted the same baby blue? Of course we can do that. “Thank you Jesus. Let me get through this kitchen design and I will never ask you for another thing again!!”

The rest of the kitchen was surprisingly easy. We decided against any upper cabinets as I can’t reach them and Jessie is very petite. She picked out a polished concrete counter and matching tile that she loved instantly and we were halfway there! Sinks, let’s talk about sinks… They are for holding dirty dishes right? Do they possess some magical function that I am yet unaware of until this point? My wife had decided that in designing this house it would be 100% perfectly accessible to my needs, down to the kitchen sink. Well that of course meant lowering the sink, that was in the plans along with the lowered counters. The lowered counters worked out well for my wife as well, because God bless her, she’s only 5′ tall in shoes. We spent the day looking at various sinks but I could see another cabinet fiasco on my hands so I quickly moved her on to the appliances. She had no issues in picking those out. We choose a glass front side by side refrigerator that tucked right into the cabinets and a matching side by side freezer. The induction cook top had a wheelchair friendly height and open space underneath so I could get right up to it. She demanded an induction cook top because the cooking surface itself never gets hot to the touch, only the pans. The microwave, double ovens, and everything would be the perfect height for both of us, but we didn’t have a sink. I pleaded with God at this point. Dear Lord, I can not survive another kitchen fiasco! I know my wife, this sink could cause an entire redesign of the kitchen from scratch. I promise you that if you let this kitchen sink slide I will never ask for another thing. Please Lord let her finish this kitchen today! It was then a miracle occurred. “Babe come look at this copper apron sink, I think this is it!”. I went over to my beautiful wife who was so pleased with her find. I said “Thank you, thank you, thank you. You win God, I will never ask for anything else again. Thank you!”

That’s when I saw the price tag.

Miracles are not cheap people, but the house was finished and furnished and I am still married.

House + furnishings= twice our intended budget. Cost I’ll pay for a happy wife and home? Priceless!

4 replies
  1. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    This is awesome, but what about those of us who don’t have the budget you obviously have? I can’t find a decent house to rent under $1000 a month. Been looking for years for a single story home or one with a master bedroom and bath on the first floor, wide enough doors and hallways in a decent area. I prefer not to live on the same street as drug houses. I want to be able to go outside with out having to think about stra year bullets flying by or getting robbed or my car broken into. As for picking out colors and lowering cabinets and types of flooring, ect. As I mentioned above we are renting because we don’t have credit to buy. And a mortgage would cost less a month and get us a better home but that’s the way it is. So those things are out of the realm of possibilities not to mention finding a landlord willing to just let us put ramps inside if home if it has any levels in it to get from one room to another. To widen a simple doorway is a minimum of $500. That is not covered by insurance so it is up to me to pay and if bathroom cpunters are too wide I can’t get wheelchair by them to get to toilet and bath. And there are many other issues that are only a dream to me which able body people take advantage of. I just have to deal with. And as a renter even if I could afford to make changes, like widening a door so I can enter a room all depends on a landlords approval which I have yet to find as well, but I couldn’t financially afford it anyway. I could go on but as a wheelchair user I am sure you know them well. I am very happy for you but many of us are not capable to get the simple things that able body pple don’t even have to consider. Example is a narrow door to a bathroom, they may desire a bigger door but if the door is to narrow it is not so much desire for means I do not have access to a bathroom am I just supposed to keep a bucket to pee in in the living room, and be carried into the bath by my boyfriend who’s back problems are increasing over the years. Maybe I can just get a hose and rinse off in the yard. That is if course if I can find a house in my budget that has a yard. It has not been one of my priorities. Ok I’m going to stop typing now as I am getting upset and angry and apologize for my sarcasm. But just to have access to a house and the rooms within would be a blessing to me.

  2. Brittany Mathiowetz
    Brittany Mathiowetz says:

    We understand your frustration with finding affordable and accessible housing, and we have covered that topic as well on the EasyStand Blog. It is unfortunate that finding accessible rental units that are also affordable is near impossible in many cities. If you’d like to read more about this subject, click any of the links in this article or check out Jennifer’s posts on the subject, especially Accessible Home Search and The Cost of an Accessible Home.

  3. Fiona
    Fiona says:

    Just beautiful! I love the way you wrote it too. Took me all day to read it…in between house work, looking after my 2 sick kids and tile shopping for my little girls disability bathroom. It was so well written that I wanted to finish reading even if it took all day. Thanks for sharing. Take care of your beautiful wife – fiona

  4. Eliza
    Eliza says:

    I am currently designing a wheelchair accessible home and would love to see pictures of your home you designed. Do you have them online? Please let me know.

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