How to Make Your Bathroom Wheelchair Accessible
When living with a person with disabilities, it’s important to keep their needs in mind. This is especially true when it comes to the layout of a home bathroom. Standard home bathroom designs generally aren’t made with the needs of the disabled in mind. Making them wheelchair-accessible often requires changes be made to the shower stall, sink, toilet, and other essential bathroom furnishings.
If you need to make your bathroom accessible to a person in a wheelchair, here are some of the guidelines you should keep in mind:
- Doorways – In order to be fully wheelchair accessible, doorways should be at least 34 inches wide. Door knobs should also be replaced with levers.
- Turning space – According to guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act, rooms need to have room for a five foot turning radius. That may be a bit large for a home bathroom, but it gives a good idea of the kind of space needed for a wheelchair-bound person to conveniently change the orientation of their chair. The ADA guidelines are based on what is needed for a non-electric wheelchair to be comfortably reoriented without running into walls; electric wheelchairs can turn with less space.
- Showers – A handicap accessible bathroom should have a curbless shower stall, which should be at least five feet wide and three feet deep. Having a curbless shower stall will not only make it easier to get in and out of the shower itself, but also provide more room for turning in the room as a whole. If necessary, a small rubber curb that can easily be rolled over can be installed to help keep water off the main bathroom floor. Some people with wheelchairs transfer to a shower chair with a netted seat; for those who don’t have a second chair, the shower will have to have a seat and hand rails installed (if the standard chrome/metal color is too dour-looking, handrails also come in a variety of colors).. Having a detachable, hand-held shower head installed will also make the shower easier to use, and adding a thermostat control that regulates water temperature will help prevent injuries.
- Sink and mirror – The top of the sink should be between 32-34 inches off the ground, and there should be at least 27 inches of clearance from the floor to the bottom of the sink. Having that much space between the sink and the floor will likely require that the piping be remodeled; a plumber or remodeler can easily move the pipes and trap into the wall so as to create the necessary space. The mirror should be positioned low enough for someone in a seated position to be able to use it, and tilted slightly forward. Lever handles or button controls will be easier to use than knobs; alternately, infrared motion sensors can also be used. Some handicap-accessible sinks place the handles on the side of the sink instead of next to the faucet head, providing another easy-to-reach option.
- Toilet – For a person in a wheelchair, it is easier to transfer themselves to a toilet that is taller than the standard home bathroom variety (as an added bonus, taller toilets are more comfortable to sit on). The toilet should be at least 17 inches high, with two support bars on either wall. Support bars should be able to withstand at least 250 pounds of pressure; this may require reinforcing the walls.
- Racks and shelving – Towel racks, shelves, and other storage spaces should be positioned low enough that someone who is seated in a wheelchair can easily reach their contents.
American Bath Enterprises has a full selection of ADA-compliant shower stalls for handicap-accessible homes. For more information, please call 888-228-4925.