People with Disabilities or the Elderly have special needs when it comes to being able to handle themselves in a bathroom. Remodeling a bathroom to meet these needs is a challenge where safety and usability are major concerns. The benefit of designing with accessibility in mind allows a person to maintain their independence and privacy. When planning a remodel the major items to analyze are floor space, toilet, shower/bath, door widths and vanity needs.
Floor Space. Plan as much clear floor space as possible. At least a 60″ diameter is needed for a wheelchair to maneuver comfortably. Select floor materials that are non skid and have a smooth surface for moving a wheelchair.
Toilet. Install a raised comfort seat toilet. The seat height of the toilet needs to be between 17 and 19 inches. This can be achieved by either installing a comfort seat toilet or using an add-on toilet seat adapter that raises the height of the toilet seat.
Bath/Shower. A walk-in or roll-in bath/shower may be required. Many people cannot step into a bathtub due to mobility issues. A walk-in shower with no lip is also a plus. Even a short rise could pose a tripping hazard for getting in and out of the shower.
Door Widths. Most standard door widths will not accommodate a wheelchair or walker. Wider doorways (at least a 36 inch clearance) will allow a person in a wheelchair to pass through the door without difficulty.
Vanity. Install a vanity that allows a wheelchair to pull up underneath it. Several choices are a pedestal vanity, wall hung vanity, or a vanity that does not have a cabinet underneath it.
Other items to consider based on needs:
Anti Scald Regulators. Install an anti-scald regulator fixture in the shower, tub and vanity sink. This prevents burns by lowering the water temperature to 120 degrees.
Lighting. Allow plenty of lighting in the bathroom. Install dimmer switches to adjust the lighting intensity. Use motion sensors for turning lights on in the bathroom. Install a nightlight that automatically turns on when it gets dark. Install recessed lighting that is adjustable to direct light to needed areas. Install light sconces on the side of the mirror instead of from the top (this allows for fewer shadows in the mirror). Install the light switches 48 inches from the floor. Raise the electrical outlets to 27 – 28 inches above the floor for easier access.
Grab Bars. Mount grab bars by the toilet and shower area for safety and mobility.
Mirror. Install a full-length mirror in the bathroom. If there isn’t room for a full-length mirror, tilt the mirror to reflect a person sitting in a wheelchair.
Cabinets. Install cabinetry and bathroom closets that can be opened and reached from a sitting position.
Emergency Alert. Install some type of emergency alert system. Such as a push button alert, waterproof necklace or phone.
Window Shades. Window treatments should be easy to operate. Install a power rise blind that works with a remote control.
Creating an environment that is both functional and safe is the top priority. It allows the elderly or disabled person to maintain their sense of dignity and independence.
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