Let’s face it, using the bathroom is a basic human necessity. However, if you or a loved one has a disability or is suffering from age-related limitations, the bathroom can be fraught with difficulties and dangers. Fortunately, there are many products and design options that can make the bathroom less challenging and more enjoyable.
The first step when you contemplate a bathroom renovation is to assess the needs of the disabled person. Below is a list of tips appropriate for most situations.
If you are accommodating a person who needs a wheelchair to get around, make sure your bathroom is large enough to allow for maneuverability. Sometimes it is necessary to remove a closet or extra cabinetry to enlarge the room. Doors will also have to be widened for easier wheelchair or walker access.
Tubs and Showers
When considering bathing options, you will have to determine if the disabled person can manage to step over the edge of a basic 19 inch high tub. If not, consider a step in tub with a low lip and a door, or shower with low or that is flush with the surrounding floor. This last option is best for people in wheelchairs or those prone to stumbling. The shower door should be easy to operate from a shower seat. All tubs and showers should have plenty of grab bar options, both vertical and horizontal. These should be located in places where they assist with getting up and down from a seat or in and out of the tub or shower. They should be installed by a professional because they need to be weight-bearing. Flooring should have non-skid features to prevent falls.
Wall mounted sinks without cabinets below them work best for wheelchair users. Sink height may have to be lowered and mirrors tilted forward to accommodate a seated user. Lever style faucet handles work best for those with arthritis or dexterity issues. Grab bars are appropriate for stability while standing.
Raised toilet seats accommodate a variety of users. The increased height is easier for someone in a wheelchair to maneuver to. People who have pain or flexibility issues appreciate not having to bend down so far.
Lighting and Other Décor
For people with vision issues, glare is particularly confusing. Limit surfaces that cause glare and use soft, dimmable, indirect lighting whenever possible. Matte paint especially formulated for high moisture areas like bathrooms is now available. Use brushed metal faucets and knobs. High contrast colors are also good and help distinguish critical items like grab bars. Avoid using blue and green together as older eyes have problems distinguishing between the two.
From shower and tub floors, to the floor of the bathroom itself, non-skid surfaces are essential. In the shower and tub, floors are often pre-textured to prevent slips. Mats and non-skid strips can be added if needed. For the bathroom floor, avoid high gloss tiles. Tile floors made up of small, mosaic-type tiles have many more grout lines which prevent skids. Other tiles come treated with anti-slip treatments. In some instances, installing non-skid traction strips is appropriate. If you have rugs, make sure they have rubber backings so they cling to the floor.
Amenities and Tools
Make sure bathroom amenities are within reach and useable by the person using the facility. Positioning towel bars, soap and toilet paper dispensers within a person’s reach is critical. Some people may need additional help, such as toilet paper tongs or easy grip doorknob surfaces, if gripping is a challenge. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.