Personal hygiene is an essential contributor to our health and wellbeing, and bathroom design over the last century has come a long way to establish the bathroom as one of the most important rooms in the house. But what if one of your family members is disabled and finds it difficult or even impossible to use the facilities?
Designing a bathroom for a disabled person needs to take account of two key considerations: safety and comfort. A well designed bathroom will provide facilities to allow the disabled user to wash, bathe and use the toilet in private and without assistance as much as possible, thus preserving the person’s independence and dignity.
With that in mind, the following 6 areas should be addressed in any disabled access bathroom design.
The width of a disabled bathroom door should be at least 900 mm and the door should open outwards. Sliding doors may also be an option. Obviously, access must never be an issue, and this may include any steps into the bathroom which may be a problem for mobility impaired or wheelchair bound users. Level access is always recommended.
Once inside the bathroom, it is important that there is enough space to be able to comfortably move around, especially for wheelchair users. Be realistic as to what can be achieved with the space available, and look for clever space-saving or multi-functional solutions.
Bathrooms can be wet and slippery places, making them dangerous for those with mobility issues. In order to prevent the possibility of any slip and fall accidents occurring, it is recommended that you fit non-slip flooring. You might like to consider vinyl or rubber tiles or sheet flooring, or even water-resistant carpet. Non-slip options exist for many stylish ceramic floor tile designs too, so there’s no need to compromise style over functionality.
Anti-slip surfaces can also be used inside bathtubs and showers, making it as safe as possible to maintain independent personal care routines.
Washbasin and Taps
Wall-mounted washbasins are more flexible than pedestal basins as they can be fitted at the appropriate height for someone needing to sit down or a wheelchair user, the ideal sink height being 30-34 inches. Adjustable height basins are also available.
A bathroom vanity with space underneath is particularly user-friendly for wheelchair users. It is also a good idea to consider storage issues around the washbasin to make sure toiletries etc are all close to hand.
When it comes to taps, there are many designs on the market that are easy to use for those with impaired mobility. These include contemporary monobloc single lever controls, push button or automatic taps, and knee or foot operated models. If taps and plugs are hard to reach, look out for basins with controls near the front.
The standard 15-17 inch toilet seat height is too low for many disabled bathroom users, and there are several ways to address this problem. You could simply fit a raised (and often padded) seat to a standard toilet, or install a taller toilet in the bathroom, or go for a height adjustable model. Take a look at the wide range available from specialist suppliers and ask your bathroom designer for advice.
It is also essential to fit grab rails or handles around the toilet area to provide extra help for getting on and off the toilet safely and in comfort. Toilet flushes can also be adapted – from push buttons and hand/foot levers to remote controls.
In addition to keeping us clean, having a bath is one of the little pleasures of life. If getting in and out of a standard bath proves difficult, there are many bathroom aids and adaptations on the marketplace that can help maintain bathroom independence, including bath seats, steps and rails, bath lifts and hoists as well as walk-in baths.
Bath lifts can be powered or manually operated, and there are battery operated seating belt versions that gently lower you down and lift you out of the bath.
Walk-in disabled baths have easy access doors, perfect for a mobility impaired person to get in and out with one little step. Many also come with spa options.
Depending on the particular health condition to be accommodated, it is advisable to speak with an occupational therapist who will be able to make an individual assessment of your needs.
Showering may be chosen as a personal preference or because getting in and out of the bath is too difficult. Shower cubicles can be adapted for disabled users in a variety of ways, including extra large shower trays that can be fitted with a stool or chair as well as grab rails for added comfort and security.
You might like to consider installing a walk-in shower without a separate shower tray or threshold to step over, or even a wet room to provide level access – particularly useful for wheelchair users.
When it comes to choosing sanitary ware, bathroom furniture and accessories for a disabled access bathroom, there is a wealth of choice available from many regular and specialist bathroom suppliers. Why not arrange a consultation with an experienced bathroom designer to discuss all the available options?
Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working with The Brighton Bathroom Company.