Most Important Feature: Quality of Life
Accessible bathrooms help people perform daily health and personal-care needs. Function. What’s the most important feature in a great accessible bathroom? Quality of life! There are required features, of course, but they don’t have to remind the person who needs them is in-valid. Quality of life (self-esteem) is too often the lowest-priority when homeowners are remodeling an existing bathroom. Other terms used synonymously with accessible design are barrier-free design, aging-in-place design, and lifetime livability. To achieve a functional, safe, and beautiful accessible bathroom, it’s best to hire a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (C.A.P.S.).
Best quality-of-life features in any room include:
- Occupants’ favorite colors
- Layered lighting to make the area interesting
- A mix of tactile and visual textures
- Background music (may not be appropriate for hard-of-hearing occupants)
- Natural aromatherapy (lavender is a great one for relaxation)
- Comfortable temperature (this is achieved in bathrooms with radiant under-floor heating)
Safety Features that Accessible Bathrooms Need:
- 32″ wide, minimum. There are offset hinges to make the net opening of 32″ wide doorways more accessible.
- Pocket doors are good but have limitations regarding location, and pulls may be hard to grip.
- 36″ wide doorways are better.
- Easy-to-grip lever handles.
- Wheelchairs and walkers:
- 5′ turning radius (without a lot of “back and forth” maneuvering).
- Same level on both sides of a doorway.
- A slip-resistant hard surface that will allow wheelchairs and walkers to glide effortlessly.
- No area rugs.
- Lavatory cabinets, countertops, sinks, and faucets:
- Open knee well, with recessed drain pipe or wrapped drain pipe to prevent burns and injury.
- Everything on the countertop and in drawers should be easily accessible from a seated position.
- The countertop should be at a comfortable height, so wheelchair arms can slide under if desired.
- Medications organized and marked for easy reading and understanding.
- The bottom of the sink should be easily reached by someone seated or leaning against a walker.
- Faucet controls:
- Easily reachable, side-mount rather than rear-mount.
- Single-lever control that’s easy to grasp.
- Curbless entry with or without a curtain or an easy-to-open door that doesn’t block access.
- Accessible from inside and outside the shower, with easy-to-understand and easy-to-operate controls.
- Anti-scald protection.
- Adjustable shower on a slide bar.
- Shower seat, either fixed height or drop-down.
- Good lighting that doesn’t produce glare.
- Grab bars are necessary for everyone!
- Whether a standard tub or a walk-in tub, plumbing location is critical because the valve, diverter, and personal shower must be easily accessible to the bather.
- Standard tub: Entry and exit are important considerations. The tub should have built-in safety grab bars. If possible, the bather should sit on the edge of the tub and swing legs in, then using the grab bars, lower themself into the water.
- Walk-in tub: New walk-in tubs have become popular. The problem I’ve had with most of them is that the bather has to enter before filling the tub and wait for the tub to drain before exiting. Kohler has introduced a new walk-in tub that eliminates the problem of the bather getting chilled. They offer a walk-in tub with a heated seat.
- Seat 16-1/2″ to 18″ high.
- Access for side-transfer from a wheelchair is recommended.
- Wall-mount and/or floor-mount grab bars are very important.
- Lighting and visual cues:
- Non-glare, bright lighting is recommended.
- If there is any visual impairment, it’s important to have contrast in color saturation and texture.
Excellent Resources for Accessible Bathrooms and Other Rooms:
The bathroom featured in today’s tip was a powder room in the 1970s two-story home. Three bedrooms and two full bathrooms were on the second floor. The Homeowners realized the importance of having an alternate bedroom and an accessible bathroom for emergencies on the main floor. To create the roll-in curbless shower, they were willing to abandon a hallway that led from the front door to the kitchen. Their top priority for the bathroom, in addition to accessibility, was a bathroom that didn’t scream, “You’re disabled!” Their bathroom whispers, “I’m here for you,” because it was designed for accessibility and quality of life.
“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”
Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate and Aging-in-Place Specialist who specializes in helping homeowners with home remodeling additions. She also designs new homes. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.
Contact Diane today to talk about your remodeling needs and goals. Sign up to receive her newsletter that has valuable information about home remodeling and quality of life.