Being able to take a bath or shower, use the toilet and enjoy easy access to a bathroom is something most of us take for granted. However, for more than 30 million Americans using who need assistance to walk, as well as for many other people who struggle with mobility, extra time and care needs to be taken to ensure their bathroom is accessible and that they can enjoy a level of privacy and independence.
If you’re building a new bathroom from scratch, you have many options for making the space accessible and customized for your needs. However, even if you’re renovating a space, there are many options available to make your bathroom more accessible.
1. Make sure shower thresholds are accessible.
Many elderly people would still enjoy the opportunity to take a warm shower and experience the healing benefits of hydrotherapy. However, if you have a bath/shower combo or if your shower has a raised threshold, that small barrier can become a hindrance to their independence.
In order to minimize the threshold as much as possible, shower floors can be gently sloped to pull water toward the drain. Barrier-free shower floors are specifically designed to accommodate wheelchairs and make the transition to the shower as convenient and painless as possible.
2. If a bath is used, consider a walk-in tub option.
A walk-in tub can make bathing a delight, instead of the chore that it can sometimes become for people with accessibility issues. Walk-in tubs are designed with extra-wide entry doors to accommodate the transition from a wheelchair and offer accessible control panels for managing the tub’s whirlpool jets.
Hand showers, handrails and a generous bath depth allow users to enjoy relaxing in a walk-in tub and soaking their entire body without worrying about whether they’ll be able to safely exit the bath.
3. Consider accomodating a wet room layout.
A wet area layout may be better suited to a new construction project that an update. However, if you have the resources, this approach can make it easy to ensure a safe bathroom experience.
A wet area is exactly what its name implies; a room where the entire space can get wet. Wet areas are generally tiled throughout or covered with non-slip flooring. Some of the other features of a wet room include:
- Floors that slope down at a ratio of ⅛” per foot of floor space.
- Water-resistant venting for HVAC systems; any vents must also be moved from the floor area.
- Switches that are located away from water sources; all switches should be exterior grade and water resistant.
4. Measure doorways and determine how easy or difficult they are to navigate.
To be able to access the bathroom, you need to be able to – literally – access the bathroom. If your doorways are not wide enough to accomodate a wheelchair, this should be your first update. A wheelchair-accessible doorway is typically 32 inches wide, while the average interior door within a home is only 27 inches.
In addition, it’s important to make sure the space within the room is large enough to accomodate a wheelchair’s turning radius. Sharp turns or crowded spaces can make it hard to navigate the room.
5. Add equipment to make the toilet easily accessible.
Using the toilet requires privacy, and making this necessary activity accessible can help your family members remain independent and avoid embarrassment regarding this unavoidable daily occurrence.
Grab bars next to the toilet can help users stabilize themselves, and installing a toilet that’s taller can make transitioning from a wheelchair easier. Space around the toilet is paramount as well; there should be at least a 60-inch radius of available space to allow navigation.
6. Incorporate grab bars in multiple locations.
Even if you don’t think your family member or home are ready for a full bathroom renovation, the careful placement of grab bars can give a little extra help and stabilization for those who need it.
For example, grab bars next to the bath can provide support for those lifting and lowering themselves into the tub. If you choose to use a shower safety chair, a grab bar can be mounted next to it to give support while standing or shifting in the shower.
When installing grab bars, it’s important to make sure you are using bars specifically made for this function. Using a towel bar, for example, won’t be sufficient to hold a person’s weight if they lose their balance.
And, mounting the bars at the correct height and angle can help to ensure safety as well; a bar mounted too high or low can throw a person off-balance, and a bar mounted diagonally can provide a greater range of reach but can be insufficient to support a person who is slipping (and can actually potentially make their fall worse).
Making these updates to your bathroom can make it more accessible; they also make life more convenient and comfortable for the people you care about. By making the proper adjustments, you can help your family members age in place or can improve quality of life for family members of any age that need accessible bathroom options.
If you’re interested in discussing ways to make your bathroom more accessible, contact us. Our team of specialists at USA Bath are available to schedule design consultations and get the process started.