As previously mentioned, past trends in bathroom design was to use the smallest possible amount of floor space possible to house basic bathroom fixtures. New home buyers are asking for larger bathrooms equipped with the latest in upscale bathroom fixtures that include whirlpool bathtubs, bidets and his and hers basins.
To comfortably house the new fixtures, bathrooms have to be larger, which creates a secondary benefit. Larger bathrooms create larger open areas which in turn makes maneuverability for individuals needing the use of wheelchairs and walkers possible.
Maneuverability is critical for those that require mobility aids. However, added space is not always enough. In many cases it is necessary to consider the positioning of faucets so they are in easily accessible locations. In this case on the outside edge of the bathtub rather than on the inside edge, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 - Accessible bathtub faucets
Consideration should also be given to the installation of additional safety devices such as grab bars beside toilets, bathtubs and on route to showers, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4 - Grab bars provide added safety
Besides grab bars it is important to consider the materials chosen for flooring. Many materials such as polished marbles, granite and ceramics become virtual skating rinks when wet. Using non-slip flooring, coupled with adequate lighting, is not only important for those with disabilities, but falls can happen to anyone.
Storage space, which in many bathrooms is only available beneath the basin in a vanity, can be difficult to access, especially if there is someone with disabilities. For most individuals the most convenient storage space to access is between 18 inches and 48 inches, from floor level, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5 - Accessible height for bathroom cabinets
When designing the bathroom, consider the use of towel bars, or towel shelves to hold towels in a location that is close and at a correct height to the bathtub and/or shower for easy access when wet.
If visitors will be using the bathroom, access to hand towels, soaps and other essentials should be placed in locations that are obvious and rational. Visitors and guests should not have to hunt for essentials!
Placing the towels in an obvious location may seem to be basic common sense, but you would be surprised to learn that many individuals keep towels in hall closets. Do you really want guests to have to search your home looking for basic essentials?
There are some other small things that can be done, to your bathroom, in order to make it more accessible:
- Cabinet doors and drawers should utilize
Dstyle drawer pulls, as shown in Figure 6, as they are the easiest drawer pull to grip.
Figure 6 -
D style drawer and cabinet door pull
- Drawer slides should allow drawers to open 100% (full extension).
- Install slides on shelving.
- Faucets, that are hands-free, as shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7 - Hands free faucet
- Resilient flooring materials.
- Motion activated switches, which are also known as occupancy sensors, to control lighting, as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8 - Motion activated light switch
Figure 9 - Adjustable showerhead mount
Creativity in adaptability:
Family and guest circumstances are all different and the size and physical shapes of bathrooms vary dramatically. In order to achieve accessibility and adaptability - creativity is often necessary. As examples:
- To make a shower head’s height adjustable, a homeowner can install shower arms with heads that are attached to vertical slide bars, as shown in Figure 9, most are even removable making them handheld showers.
- Portable raised toilet seats can accommodate visitors who have difficulty in raising and lowering themselves in and out of low seating.
- Some grab bars are designed to fold out of the way, when not in use.
- If you have occasionally visitors who require knee space under vanities, the area can be utilized for storage when the knee space is not required as shown in Figure 10.
Figure 10 - Knee space under vanity