Accessible Bathrooms Should Whisper “I’m Here To Help You In Every Way Possible”

The major purpose for creating accessible bathrooms is to help people perform daily health and personal-care needs without minimizing their personal value. What’s the Successful accessible bathrooms must maintain the humanity of occupants. important feature in a great accessible bathroom? Humanity! There are required features, of course, but they don’t have to be a reminder that the person who needs them is in-valid.  Quality of life, and personal esteem are too often the lowest-priority features. Other terms used synonomously are barrier-free design, aging-in-place design, and lifetime livability.

Here are features that accessible bathrooms should have:

  • Doors:
    • 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).
  • Floors:
    • Same level on both sides of a doorway.
    • 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.
    • Countertop should be at a comfortable height, so wheelchair arms can slide under if desired.
    • 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.
  • Showers:
    • Curbless entry with or without a curtain or an easy-to-open door that doesn’t block access.
    • Valves:
      • 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!
  • Tubs: All of the above features apply, except a tub-mounted seat should be substituted for the shower seat.
  • Toilets:
    • 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.

Here are some excellent resources for further information about accessible bathrooms, and ideas for other areas of your home:

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 accessible bathroom for emergency 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.”

See photos and descriptions of the featured bathroom.

“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

Read about Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ, award-winning author and designer — her philosophy, experience, and training.

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