While bathrooms are an indispensable part of every house they can often pose a danger to elderly and handicapped people. In order to design a bathroom that’s accessible to even people with disabilities, several things must be taken into consideration. Some great information appeared in the New York Times about emergency room visits caused by bathroom accidents. It’s very eye opening to see that 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom!
Remember, your bathroom might look and feel very comfortable to you, but to an elderly person it might be an accident waiting to happen. To ensure the safety and accessibility of your bathroom, you have to think about the experience your bathroom is offering users from the perspective of individuals who don’t have the same freedom of mobility you do.
The Entrance And Door
A good place to start when designing a handicap bathroom, is to take a moment for considering the entrance. If an entrance isn’t easy to open, handicapped people may find themselves having to ask for help just so they can get into the bathroom, which will make them feel very dependent.
The most important thing to remember is that bathrooms should allow enough space for people in wheelchairs to easily fit through the doorway. Ideally, the entrance to the bathroom should at least 34 inches wide.
It’s also recommended to make use of doors that should swing outward instead of inward to allow more space to move in the bathroom. Lastly, doors with levers are preferable rather than doors with knobs.
Allow Enough Space For Movement
To design a bathroom that handicapped individuals can use independently, you should allow enough space for a wheelchair to move. Wheelchairs often need quite a lot of space when turning around, so try to work that into your bathroom design in order to accommodate paraplegics.
A good standard to keep in mind while designing a handicap bathroom is to allow around a five foot radius of empty space so that individuals in wheelchairs are able to easily turn around. But if you’re completely unable to keep an area of five feet open for users in wheelchairs, it might help you to learn that electric wheelchairs can turn in slightly smaller spaces, consult your manifacture to found out your wheelchairs turn space.
Whatever you do, try to determine to amount of space that users of that specific bathroom will be needing to turn around before going ahead with plans. It might just save you the headache of designing and building a handicap bathroom that doesn’t offer handicapped people the independence you hoped.
The Safety Of Bathtubs And Showers
No bathroom can offer an optimal bathing experience for handicapped or elderly users if the safety of showers and bathtubs are neglected when designing it. There are multiple ways to change these elements in a bathroom that will allow users with impaired mobility to use these facilities more independently.
One of the main concerns with standard bathtubs is the smooth surface at the bottom. This will case bathers to slip and fall more easily, which can lead to very serious injury. To solve this problem on a very tight budget, an anti-slip coating can simply be applied to the tub floor. However, an ordinary bathtub with an anti-slip floor is still far from being the ideal solution.
For the safest bathing experience, it’s crucial to consider other factors, like how accessible the bathtub really is. Walk-in tubs are available that allow elderly bathers a very convenient way to enter the bathtub. These are generally the best option if you want a bathtub that’s accessible to handicapped people.
For showers, a wheelchair-friendly design is what you should aim for. Wheelchair-friendly showers are level with the bathroom floor to allow paraplegic users to roll into the shower easily. The entrance to the shower should be at least 36 inches wide so wheelchairs can easily fit through the door and there should be enough space in the shower for the wheelchair to move.
Accessibility Of The Toilet Is A Must
No one wants to depend on others when it comes to the simple act of using a toilet. Designing your handicap bathroom with a toilet that’s easy to use is absolutely crucial.
To make the toilet easily accessible to handicapped users, place it between two grab bars that are positioned approximately 36 inches apart. Another way to add to the comfort of a toilet in a handicap bathroom, is by using a toilet that’s about 17 inches off the floor. If your budget doesn’t allow enough to install a toilet that’s 17 inches high, you can still make add height by fitting a special toilet seat that’s thicker.
Place the toilet paper dispenser a little to the front of the toilet on a wall next to the bowl instead of placing it behind the toilet. This will help users to reach it without having to twist their upper bodies.
General Tips For An Easily Accessible, Convenient Bathroom
Lastly, apart from the elements that are mentioned above, there are also a few other things that can be done to make the user’s experience safer and more comfortable.
Proper Bathroom Lighting
Use enough lights to avoid the presence of very shadowy areas. This will be especially helpful if the bathroom is intended to be used by elderly people who are visually impaired, as it will make it easier for them to see.
Installing Grab Bars
A good handicap bathroom should have grab bars that allow individuals with disabilities to easily manoeuvre in the space. It’s good to have grab bars installed at the bathtub, shower and toilet. This is a simple adjustment that will increase the safety of your bathroom significantly.
Choosing The Right Sink
To make the bathroom sink accessible for users who are in a wheelchair, it should be mounted on the wall with no cabinet underneath it so that there’s space that allows users to wash their hands without having to get up using a grab bar. The use of a grab bar at bathroom sinks for washing hands is dangerous and strongly discouraged.