9 Things to Consider When Planning An Accessible Bathroom
When remodeling your bathroom, it’s important to consider functionality changes as well as aesthetic ones. The bathroom should be a place of comfort and relaxation, but that’s not always the case.
Bathroom accessibility is often not something we think about until we need it. Bathrooms are rarely designed with accessibility in mind, and as we age, we may become more and more aware of our bathroom’s limitations. Why not make some of these changes now and save yourself discomfort down the road?
Perhaps accessibility is an issue you are already considering. You may have a disability that requires certain changes, or maybe you have an elderly family member moving into your home. Either way, the following adjustments can be made simply and will make a world of difference with accessibility.
1. Widen Doorways
An accessible doorway should be wide enough for a typical wheelchair to pass through. Most doors are 24 inches wide, but the current ADA standard requires 32 inches for straight entry doorways. If the doorway requires the wheelchair to turn into it upon entry, then the recommended width is 36 inches.
The door handle is another thing to consider; lever handles are much easier than knobs for people with dexterity issues. And, if the bathroom is quite snug, it’s best that the door opens out from the room, versus into the room.
The photo above features a nearly 40-inch doorway entry with a pocket door allowing more space in the entry way.
2. Add Grab Bars
Bars should be added in strategic locations along the walls of the bathroom. Optimal areas for grab bars are near the toilet and within the bathtub or shower, but they can be added wherever feels necessary. The goal is to support someone as they sit, stand, or maneuver their bodies.
Grab bars must be properly installed so that they can support the entire weight of a person. If not, they could cause more harm than good.
Grab bars don’t have to take away from the design of your bathroom. They are available in a wide variety of finishes and styles, making it possible to disguise them and match the style of the room, rather than becoming an eyesore.
In the photo above, the soap shelves and handheld showerhead slider are all grab bars. In the photo below, the toilet paper holder also acts as grab bar.
3. Adjust Toilet Height
Adjusting the height of your toilet is a change that should be made per your specific needs. The ADA requires that toilet bowl rims be no more than 19 inches from the floor. This is the ideal height for those in wheelchairs, as it makes the transfer much easier.
However, if your needs are not wheelchair dependent, then you may want to consider raising the height of the toilet seat. Elevated seats require less effort to sit and stand. Toilet seat risers are another option if you don’t want to make the change permanent.
Opting for a wall-mounted toilet will also save some floor space, which is always very helpful.
4. Remove Shower Barriers
Roll-in or curbless showers are ideal for accessibility needs. Most showers come with a 4-inch lip (at least) to keep water from escaping. While it may not seem like much, those 4 inches could be a dangerous obstacle for someone with limited mobility.
Roll-in showers allow easier entry and are quite easy to install, with many pre-made showers fitting into the standard bathtub openings.
Most pre-made curb-less showers already come with a chair or stool, but if not, consider adding one to your shower, especially if balance or long-term standing proves difficult.
5. Prepare a “Wet Room”
When making your bathroom more accessible, it’s safe to assume that the whole space will be used. This could mean that all areas of your bathroom are prone to getting wet. Extend your tile flooring along the walls of the bathroom so that none of it will be damaged by water.
6. Add “Non-slip” Flooring
While on the subject of flooring, non-slip flooring is vital for the safety of you or your loved ones. Maneuvering in and around the bathroom can be risky enough and even a few droplets of water can be extremely dangerous. Seriously minimize the risks of slips and falls by adding non-slip flooring and mats.
7. Replace Tub with Walk-in
Walk-in tubs are very popular because the swinging door requires a low threshold, meaning the tub fills and drains while the user is already inside. While this is much safer, waiting for the tub to fill and then waiting again while it drains can become a little tedious over time.
Most walk-ins come equipped with ADA-compliant seats which are placed much higher in the tub, eliminating a lot of up-and-down movement. They also have safety bars and non-slip flooring. You can even find some with a safety harness which comes in quite handy when caregivers are assisting in the bathing process.
8. Add Roll-Up Sinks
Opting for a pedestal sink, or even a roll-up sink, makes the sink much more accessible to those in a wheelchair. Sinks with an attached vanity make it impossible to get the wheels under the sink, and therefore difficult to access. Like the wall-mounted toilet, a wall-mounted sink can be an efficient way to save space.
Again, make this decision based on your specific needs. If a wheelchair isn’t necessary, but mobility is an issue, consider raising the height of the sink, versus lowering it.
9. Consider Faucets
There’s a chance your faucets may be accessible already, but just in case, keep these ADA requirements in mind, as a guide. Faucets should have an easy on and off, specifically needing less than 5 pounds of force to operate.
Faucets should be able to be activated by using only one hand, and it’s important to ensure that the water can flow unobstructed, with plenty of space between the spout and the sink basin.
If your faucet has a motion sensor (which could be very helpful!), make sure the water runs for at least 10 seconds before shutting off.
Making Your Bathroom Accessible
This may seem like a lot of changes to make, but don’t get overwhelmed! Think about what needs you and your family require, and then take it step-by-step.
If you have any questions about making accessibility improvements to your home or bathroom, we are happy to help! At McManus Kitchen and Bath, we have years of experience with accessibility. In fact, we are Aging-in-Place certified and have specialists ready to assist you in whatever your needs may be.
We’ll help you create not just the bathroom you need, but also the bathroom you deserve. Schedule a consult with us today.
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McManus Kitchen and Bath is a design and build company specializing in kitchen and bath remodels.