The right bathroom design is an essential part of living with a physical disability. This is where your most complex and potentially risky self-care activities take place. The bathroom is where we all want to be the most independent. Of course, most bathrooms are not initially designed for wheelchair safety or access. If you’re looking to make a bathroom more wheelchair accessible, we’ve put together a helpful collection of tips.
Room to Roll
Spacing is incredibly important for an accessible bathroom, especially for wheelchair accessibility. The ADA has some great guidelines for how many inches are needed between bathroom fixtures to allow a wheelchair to get around. Grab your tape measure and find out if your bathroom as-is is big enough for wheelchair accessibility or if there are a few renovations that can make it more accessibly spaced.
In addition, you should also think about picking things up off the floor like hampers and bathmats that might serve as obstructions to wheelchair mobility in the bathroom.
Normal fluffy bathmats are not wheelchair-friendly, as you may have already discovered. That fluff tends to catch on wheels and sometimes stop rolling entirely. Fortunately, there are more rollable alternatives to traditional bathmats. Firm rubber bathmats with holes allow the watershed from a bath or shower to evaporate without a mess while making it easier for a wheelchair to roll across the bathroom.
Lowered Floating Sink
A floating sink is a sink that has no cabinet underneath, so it looks like it is ‘floating’ against the wall. Crafted properly, the plumbing is tucked behind the drywall or inside much smaller cabinetry. Indeed, without cabinetry in the way, the sink becomes much more accessible to those in a wheelchair. Floating sinks make it easier for handwashing, tooth brushing, hair styling, and other sink-based activities to be done from a seated position with the knees comfortably under the sink basin.
Grab Bars Around the Toilet
Most wheelchair users can lift themselves between chair and toilet as long as there is sufficient grab-bars to support them. Installing grab bars ad the right height around a toilet can be essential. For toilets that are not in a nook, installing a second bar on the other side can add additional support and ease for the transition from wheelchair to toilet and back again with full independence.
Curbless Shower Stall (or Gated Tub)
It’s well-known that shower stalls are more wheelchair-friendly than tubs, but not all shower stalls are equally accessible. What you need is a curbless shower stall, one without a small ledge between the drain-surface and the floor. This way, a wheelchair can roll directly into the shower without having to be pushed over the lip or threshold.
However, for those who need a bath-tub for physical therapy reasons, some people choose to go with a gated tub instead. The outer wall of a gated tub is a water-tight door that swings open that a physically disabled person can step carefully into the tub without having to climb.
Dual-Mount Handheld Showerhead
An essential piece of wheelchair-accessible bathing is the handheld showerhead. The hook-and-hose design involves a shower head at the end of a flexible hose. Thus, bathers can bring the water down to their level and focus the spray anywhere it is needed. To make the shower versatile and welcoming to all, consider installing two mounts for the showerhead. One in a reachable position for someone in a wheelchair, and one in the usual raised position for someone standing to shower.
Shower Chair or Seat
Not every wheelchair user bathes in a chair. Though they may need to be seated, many leave their wheelchair. For this reason, having a foldable shower chair is a great addition to an accessible bathroom. A foldable shower chair can be tucked into a corner when not in use. Further, it provides a convenient seat for those who cannot comfortably stand through the bathing process. Many luxury-designed showers also include a foldable shower seat, often of bamboo or teak, that folds down from the wall for a relaxing/accessible seated shower.
Building an accessible bathroom can be a complete transformation or just a few small adjustments. For more great insights on how to increase accessibility in your home or facility, contact us today!