Shower and bathtub access for the disabled, the injured or the elderly homeowner is an important and sometimes overlooked aspect of bathroom design. Those who are faced with mobility challenges require special products and construction that will allow easy access to showers, tubs, vanities, toilets and the bathroom entrance itself. Fortunately, today there are many options available in the form of handicap showers, walk in tubs and handicap toilets for individuals with these types of special needs.
Wheelchair Access to the Bathroom
One of the first things to consider is how to allow easy access to the bathroom. If a person is confined to a wheelchair then, in most cases, the doorway or entrance to the bathroom will need to be widened. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Specially Adapted Housing Requirements specify a minimum hallway width of 48” with a minimum doorway width of 36” to allow full wheelchair accessibility. The minimum clear space for a T-shaped 180 degree turn is 36” in all directions.
Choosing the Right Handicap Shower
Handicap accessible showers are a great way to create a more comfortable, convenient and safer showering experience in the bathroom, while at the same time providing the homeowner with special needs the ability to be more independent. The ADA has several provision for installing safe shower stalls, including, a shower seat located directly opposite the faucet, a grab bar located within easy reach on the back wall of the shower stall, and a shower head attached to a hose that is 60 inches in length. In order to allow easy transfer from wheelchair to shower chair, there should be no shower enclosures, such as doors, that might interfere with mobility. In addition, the curb should be no more than ½ inch high from the bottom of the shower unit and the opening should be at least 36” wide. There are many bathroom manufacturers, like Swanstone, that offer several choices for your handicap shower needs, as well as grab bars and other fixtures.
Walk In Tubs for the Disabled
Bathtubs in general can sometimes be precarious even for the able bodied bather, so it’s difficult to imagine those with injuries or disabilities managing their way in and out of one without a great deal of assistance. That challenge has been solved, however, with the advent of walk in tubs, which make the experience easy and enjoyable. As the name suggests, these types of bathtubs are not designed for individuals who may be wheelchair bound or invalid because they do require that the user be able to walk in and out on their own. However, for those who are feeling the discomfort and limited mobility that accompanies injury, illness or advanced age, walk in tubs offer a safe, convenient and comfortable solution. Some of the more popular makers of walk in tubs include Jacuzzi and MediTub.
This is another common household fixture that most of us take for granted, but can become a painstaking experience for those who are physically impaired. A properly installed handicap toilet can make the everyday bathroom visit a much less difficult ordeal, while allowing the user to feel more independent, and ultimately safer and more secure. Most handicap toilets will be 17” high, with grab bars and flush mounted for easy access. Don’t overlook this important element of you handicap bathroom design. Companies like Toto carry an excellent selection of compliant toilet products.
Don’t Forget the Handicap Bathroom Accessories
After thoroughly researching and selecting your primary bathroom components, make sure to include many of the fixtures and accessories available for handicap baths. Things like Shower Entry Ramps, Handicap Shower Heads, Shower Commodes, Shower Transfer Benches, Shower Pans, Handicap Shower Chairs, Shower Grab Bars, Shower Seats, Waterproof Shower Mats, Wall Mounted Shower Stools, Bathtub Grab Bars, Suction Shower Handrails, Wall Mounted Handrails, Shower Mats, and more.
Get it Done Right – Hire A Pro
For proper design and installation of handicap accessible bathrooms, always consult with an experienced and professional contractor in your area. Most good contractors will offer free consultations and expert advice.