Your Bathroom: Accessible Design & Safety

November 15, 2017

Your Bathroom: Accessible Design & Safety

Accessibility around the home is essential for millions of Americans. At this time, there are approximately 30 million Americans that use or rely on wheelchairs. This population will only continue to increase as millions of Americans begin to age and seek opportunities to remain independent in their homes. Maneuvering throughout the day is already enough of a challenge in a wheelchair. However, due to the bathroom's special qualities, it can present unique issues and hazards to those who need additional assistance.

accessible bathroom designWith the goal of providing support and assistance, the federal government enacted the Americans with Disability Act in 1992. The Americans with Disability Act included initiatives to improve public service availability, expand employment opportunities, and provide public, commercial and government building design requirements.

The ADA's construction requirements ensure that those who require a wheelchair or additional assistance can still access and use these building's facilities. The ADA has been updated and revised three times since then and is now the standard for new construction and aging in place remodeling. Complying with all of the ADA's requirements is of course not required in your home. However, ADA compliant redesigns can increase your home's value and give a useful starting point if a loved one begins to face age-related challenges.

Your home's bathroom is an appropriate place to start planning your design changes. The bathroom's slippery surfaces, standing water, small dimensions, and delicate maneuvering cause a significant percentage of falls in the home. The bathroom's danger is also an issue for those caregivers providing assistance.

We compiled a brief summary of areas that you should evaluate when you begin to assess your bathroom's accessible design. Many of these evaluations incorporate the ADA's legislative requirements, but not everyone is required.


Bathroom Dimensions

The bathroom's overall dimensions can be some of the most expensive and challenging design adjustments. The entrance and size of the bathroom itself must be capable of allowing a wheelchair to enter and to turn within its space. The bathroom's doors (and all other doors in the home) should at lease be a minimum of 34 inches wide.

These doors should also be adjusted to open outwards with added clearance on either one of its side. Opening outwards offers additional space inside the bathroom. Also, they should use lever door handles and not knobs. The average turning radius for a wheelchair is 5 feet in diameter. This ADA required width can be adjusted in your home if one uses an electric wheelchair or another device with a smaller turning radius. For complete maneuverability, there should be a 30"x 48" space for the mobility devices in front of each of the bathroom's fixture. This 30" x 48" area gives one the option to turn their wheelchair around.

Overall, the dimensions of an accessible bathroom require enough size for the wheelchair to enter and maneuver the bathroom. One should also take into account if possible, additional space for the caregiver.


Curbless Shower Stall

Barrier free shower stalls allow efficient access for wheelchair and other mobility aids. Carrier free shower stalls allow for improved access but also create hazardous standing water. This standing water and many bathrooms slippery floors can lead to a high rate of accidents. Collapsible water dams offer an easy to install, efficient, and affordable water control solution. The ADA requires that the shower stall measure at least 5 feet wide by 3 feet with a collapsible dam. The collapsible dam prevents water leakage and can be rolled or stepped on without losing its shape.
Collapsible Water Dam WheelchairUse the collapsible water dam in conjunction with a weighted shower curtain for maximum water control. The weighted curtain's bottom seam has weights that create a substantial barrier along the 1-inch high dam.

Made from heavy duty foam, when the dam is stepped on or rolled over it will return to its original shape every time. There are many other lower quality water thresholds on the market. Installing the barrier is easy and only requires silicone adhesive or caulk. This shower water dam's self-adhesive water resistant tape and silicon adhesive caulk create a long-term and durable solution for standing water control. Available with either square or rounded end caps for a finished look whether in a modular or cornered shower. Its material is available in a neutral color and can be painted to match any bathroom design without sacrificing its performance.
caregiver shower curtain
The caregiver shower curtain includes the weighted shower curtain's bottom seal design. The curtain's weights help reduce the curtain's movement or drifting leading to less spillage. The caregiver curtain is 33" high allowing a caregiver easy access to the bather.

Designed for use in commercial ADA barrier-free, curb-less and lower threshold stalls or bathtubs. Included with its installation kit is specialized hardware to allow the rod to swing away from the shower's stall for an easy exit and entrance. This function and the curtain's height provide a safer and easier bathing solution for the patient and the caregiver.

Practical, accessible design increases one's access to the shower stall without sacrificing control of the shower's dangerous standing water. 



Hand-held Showers

Viverity white hand held showerHand-held Showers allow one to direct and fully control the shower's spray. Maneuvering within the shower stall can be nearly impossible, and a hand held shower ensures the water reaches where it is required.

Hand-held showers come in different colors. Use it with a specially designed L-shaped support and hand-held shower holder that can store it while it is not in use. Be sure to check that the handheld shower's holder and the shower's general control are at a reachable height.


Clearance Underneath The Sink

Accessible bathroom design requires sufficient space for one to wheel up to the sink or other fixture. The ADA requires a minimum of 17" and a maximum of 25" depth wherever knee and toe space is necessary. This range is only an ADA requirement but gives a better picture of the dimensions required. This space can mean that cabinets and pipes would have to be removed or a particular fixture would need to be installed. This accessible design feature must also apply to other rooms and fixutres around the home. 


Toilet Accessibility

Toilet access varies depending upon the user's needs. The ADA requires that its seat should be at least 17" high from the finish floor and at most 19" high. The placement of the toilet and supporting grab bars can also vary depending on one's preference and budget. However, the ADA's requirements include two support bars. The grab bar behind the toilet is required to be at least 36" long and mounted between 33" and 36" above the floor. The second support bar runs parallel on the left or right-hand side of the toilet. This support should be at least 42" long and between 33" -36" from the floor. Again, these dimensions and requirements are not universal. One may have a particular preference or need when transferring on and off the toilet.

tolevatorAdding height to a standard toilet may make this transfer easier. Typically additional height can be added with a raised cushion placed on top of the standard toilet's seat. But it may also be added at the toilet's base with a Toilevator. The Toilevator adds an additional 3.5" at the toilet's base. It provides a sturdy and cost-effective way to improve the toilet's support. 

It is also important to determine the proper placement of the toilet itself within the room. Make sure that its flush control is opposite the bathroom's wall. There are also specially designed toilets for use in the accessible design and will comply with the ADA standard. They include added toe clearance beneath the bowl and dimensions that allow for easy reaching. At the same time, one may upgrade to a toilet and bidet combination fixture for additional convenience.


Toilet Assistance 

Another method of preventing falls in the bathroom is a powered toilet lift. Powered toilet lifts offer additional assistance onto and off from the toilet with the push of the button. The TILT, toilet incline lift can lift an individual up to and off of the toilet in 15-20 seconds. The TILT's mechanism is designed for easy upkeep and dependable use.

Toilet seat incline liftThe TILTs low angle makes it easy for lateral transfers off from assistive devices and transfer chairs. When the TILT is in the down position the arms can be lowered for slide board transfers. So depending upon the layout of your bathroom, the TILT or another similar toilet lift can provide additional assistance with toiling and with bathing.Assistance onto and off from the toilet eliminates a significant hurdle many individuals face to remain independent. Confidence and convenience with the TILT assitvie commode device.  

Home accessibility professionals offer many other suggestions to make one's bathroom safe and comfortable. For one's safety while showering it is critical to making sure the maximum water temperature. Many water heaters can be programmed to limit their maximum temperature, or thermostatically controlled accessories can provide protection from burns. To prevent slippery conditions and falls, double check that all rugs, mats or floor covers are non-slip. Also, to help prevent falls make sure that there is proper lighting in the bathroom for nighttime visits.

These suggestions are only a summary of crucial areas in a bathroom's accessible design. We hope that this collection has helped to start assessing and visualizing the necessary changes in your home. Please contact us today if you have any questions about improving your bathroom's accessibility and safety.

1 Response

Mike Good
Mike Good

September 25, 2017

Excellent summary! I’ll be sharing in my Alzheimer’s Friendly Home group:

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