Disabled Bathrooms: How to Design a Residential Accessible Bathroom
Disabled bathrooms are a necessity in homes where there is at least one occupant who is immobile for disability reasons.
Degrees of immobility can range from being able to get around on crutches to being completely bound to a wheelchair.
Anyone who is disabled for any reason and to whatever degree,
knows how difficult it is to use a regular bathroom. Therefore, an
Even though there are uniform requirements for imposed
by the ADA for public restroom facilities, typical houses
do not even come close to meeting disability needs.
However, many newer houses today are incorporating many of
the ADA guidelines into their basic designs because it makes the home have better resale value in the long run as well as provide for accessibility ahead of time.
The two most important issues to consider when designing bathrooms for the disabled in personal residences is safety and ease of use.
Of course, safety concerns are at the top of the list when it comes to designing, building or renovating a handicapped bathroom. That is one benefit to building this room for a home that adheres to the Federal ADA bathroom requirements. The American with Disabilities Act provides the best guidelines that ensure designing a safety for a wide variety of users with various disabilities. Simply incorporating the best safety guidelines, if not all, will help you make your bathroom at home a much safer place. Safety features such as handicap emergency pull cords, permanent or portable grab bars and support rails, and appropriate fixtures are part of the most important elements of creating a protected, accessible area. Safety features, along with home mobility aids, also allow a person to oftentimes be able to use the facilities alone without the aid of someone else. This is important for those who want to retain as much independence as possible by not having to rely on a family member or health care professional for help.
In fact, many residential features are now so high tech, that many people can live alone, depending on the extent of their disability. The ideal room is one in which a disabled person can use it safely with no additional help.
Ease of Use
For many people, using the restroom is the most stressful part of their day because most typical bathrooms in the home are not designed to accommodate handicapped users. Accessories such as wash basins, toilet paper dispensers, soap dispensers, slide bar shower heads and paper towel dispensers should all be reachable from a seated position.
When designing a restroom, it's not hard to find accessories from a wide variety of suppliers who specialize in ADA compliant products. Creating a comfortable, easy to use, barrier free bath area will remove much of the stress from the day to day living for most users.
Here are several very important design features to keep in mind:
Entrance Door to Bathroom
The entrance is the first most important feature to remodel or design depending on what the need is for the particular situation. If you are remodeling, you will need to remove the existing door and cut the doorway to measure 32" wide for better access.
If you want to make it handicap friendly for the wheelchair bound, be sure to cut the doorway to 36" so that the chair can easily pass through. A handicap accessible entrance should also be stepless for ease of use.
If you want to add a privacy door, then consider a sliding door or pocket door. You can also simply add a wrap around curtain on tracks that a wheelchair bound person can easily open and close.
Perhaps more than any other accessory, specially designed handicap toilets are critical for maximum ease of use. The height of a typical toilet is generally 15-17 inches, which is too low for easy transfer.
You can either purchase a commode that meets specific ADA height criteria which is approximately 18" or you can put a toilet seat add-on which can elevate the existing toilet seat from 4" to 6" plus it adds cushion to the seat which is more comfortable. This is the more economical choice, but it also can shift sometimes, so be sure to decided whether it's best to replace the existing commode or simple use a seat add-on.
The floor is always of major concern because of the danger of slipping and falling if it becomes wet. The right flooring is also of concern for easy movement, depending on whether you need a wheelchair-friendly material or there are other requirements for mobility reasons.
For example, cork flooring is great for providing a cushiony, safe material in case of accidental falls. However, it is not conducive for wheelchair use since the cushioning effect can make it difficult for users to travel easily over the surface.
In the case of requiring non-slip flooring material, you can either replace the current floor with a slip-resistant flooring surface, such as rubber or tile, or you can paint the existing surface with a non-slip coating. Also, remember that rugs or other removable floor coverings should not be placed on the floor for safety and accessibility reasons.
A walk in bathtub or shower is another very important feature of a bath area. Most people either choose a specially designed tub or shower, but not both since each of these features can raise the expense of remodeling or designing.
There are different types of tubs and showers for the handicapped, depending on the particular needs of the person. For those who are wheelchair bound, a shower is often most advantageous because many users can wheel into the shower area and maneuver by themselves more easily. Adding bathtub lifts to a tubs can make it possible for those in wheelchairs to enjoy relaxing baths anytime they want.
Walk in tubs may be more advantageous to those who are a bit more mobile, such as if they are on crutches or if they can walk a few steps. These tubs are designed with a door that opens into a seated area. The only disadvantage is that a person has to enter, wait to fill the tub with water, bathe and then wait again for the water to drain before exiting. However, a walk in tub is a soothing feature that many people enjoy.
Sinks and Vanities
When placing a sink or vanity area in a bath area, be sure to plan for either wheelchair access or accessibility for someone who can stand, but perhaps isn't able to bend over very well. For wheelchair accessibility, it's important that a person can roll the chair comfortably underneath the sink or vanity area.
The sink height should be approximately 30" for good access. If, however, a person can stand, but not bend very well, a 40" sink and vanity area may be more comfortable. Be sure to consider for whom the sink and vanity is intended before designing this area.
Space for Wheelchair Maneuverability
Be sure to open up as much space as possible in a wheelchair accessible bathroom so that there is plenty of easy access to every feature in the room. The chair should be able to easily turn 180 degrees without running into anything. If you are remodeling a small restroom for wheelchair access, you may have to consider knocking out a wall or expanding the space by removing less important features.
Grab Bars, Emergency Call Buttons, Pull Cords and Safety Seats
Additional safety accessories such as grab bars are absolutely necessary. Grab bars in the shower, walk in tub, along the wall, around the sink or vanity, and any other location that one may require is very important in providing a safe, accessible room. Emergency call buttons and pull cords are also important to install, since there may be a time when a user may fall or become ill. He or she can pull the cord when they need help. These can be installed inside showers, around a toilet or other areas of the room. You install at least one set of pull cords for use. Seating such as a handicap shower chair and other transfer seating, such as a transport wheelchair, should also be considered as you design the restroom. There are lift seats and stationary seats that may be needed as well, depending on the type of need. Ideally, when choosing your accessible design, it's very helpful to see several first hand. This will give you an idea of what you may want to include or can exclude in your own home.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that it's always very helpful to consult with a professional home builder that has had experience in accessible building or remodeling projects.
Mistakes can not only be costly, but also can be dangerous to a disabled user. Everyone should have a design in hand before building or renovating user friendly, safe accessible bathrooms.
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