Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Wheelchair-Friendly Bathroom

Most bathrooms were designed for people who are comfortably moving around on two feet.  But that’s changing.  In 1990 the American Disabilities Act (ADA) developed guidelines to accommodate physically challenged people in public facilities and businesses.  As more and more people decide to live out their lives at home, ADA bathroom rules are spilling over into residential design.

If you’re caring for someone who uses a wheelchair or you use a wheelchair yourself, keep these guidelines in mind when remodeling the bathroom.

Wide Welcomes

Skinny doorways are inhospitable if you’re in a wheelchair.  They can cause anything from bumps and bruises, to you, the doorway and the wheelchair, to complete obstruction. The ADA recommends that doorways be a minimum of 32 inches wide, which only makes sense because wheelchairs typically require 24 to 27 inches of floor space from wheel to wheel.

Make the Opening an Outie

The door should open out.  This has nothing to do with every-day access, but everything to do with safety.  What if you or the person you care for falls on the other side of the bathroom door?  Now the door is blocked and no one can get in to help.

One more thought.  If the door is lockable, make sure it can be opened with a key from the outside in case of an emergency.

Keep it Flat

Do you know anyone who likes speed bumps?  No?  So you don’t want the doorway threshold to feel like one.  For smooth, easy rolling keep the threshold even with the floor. Now expand that thought to the shower.  Install a barrier-free shower for easy access.

Trouble-Free Turns

The bathroom shouldn’t be an area where you practice three-point turns like a teenager learning to drive.  The ADA recommends 60” for turning space.  In many bathrooms this is easier said than done. So cheat a little if you have to. Some of the space under a wall-hung vanity can be used—as long as it’s positioned correctly.

Talking About Vanities…..

Hang the vanity at a height that gives plenty of room to roll right up and sit comfortably with your legs underneath.  Make sure that storage is accessible from the seated position.  You can use the lower shelves of medicine cabinets, perhaps installed in a side wall, drawers on either side of the vanity opening, or even baskets. 

And make everything simple.  That means single-lever faucets and easy close drawers.

The Right Height

All controls in the bathroom must be accessible from the seated position.  That means the light switches, the shower controls and the wall-mounted, hand-held shower head. And it’s time to move on from the traditional toilet to a comfort-height toilet, 17 to 19 inches high, making it easier for transfers from a wheelchair.

The Right Light

Keep the bathroom bright to help avoid accidents, and add a nightlight for nighttime visits.

Think Safety

Think through what could go wrong.  When you do, you’ll be eager to install a programmable faucet that prevents scalding.  You’ll also want to add properly reinforced grab bars in the shower, bath and around the toilet.

Hope this is helpful to you.  Bye for now …………………….George Flowers

P.S.  If you live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Delaware, please contact us for a free in-home consultation—we’ll let you know if your loved one is safe and what we recommend.  Or call us now at 1-877-426-8466.

Tell us about challenges you or a physically-challenged loved one has experienced in the bathroom and how you’ve resolved them.

Let me know if you have any questions about remodeling a bathroom for wheelchair access.

1 comment:

  1. Great information here.I have done the bathroom remodelling for my fathers flat. He used a walker I put in a seat that slid him in the tub and hand rails for the toilet.I also hooked up a hand shower.I also put strong hand rails in the tub to help him hang on. Then it could pay to have the water heater set lower to prevent burns. I now have a website I am building on seniors living independent. It is
    I am working on the site with a writer both of us are seniors or close we have been fifty for many years? The website is a work in progress it links to a website on safe homes that explains how to best build safer homes. It also includes how much it can increase home value and looks at the same time as making your home safer. In British Columbia they are now trying to get most of these features put in the building code.