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Accessible, disability inclusive bathrooms are a necessity for hygiene, dignity and
independence. In a world of tricky building regulations and confusing floor plans, what
should you consider before taking on a bathroom renovation project?
What is an Accessible Bathroom?
People with disabilities shouldn’t have to ‘make do’ with non-functional bathroom spaces. A good accessible bathroom provides ease of use and enables mobility-impaired users to access it as independently as possible. In public spaces, standards of accessibility are often quite consistent, with stall dimensions and grab rails among the most common deviations from standard bathrooms. At home, people with disabilities have more flexibility and control. They are able to assess their own specific needs and let these guide the renovation process. The result is a more usable, individually tailored space.
Rules and Regulations
In order to ensure safety and legal compliance, it’s important to be aware of the rules and regulations relating to domestic property modification. For example, grab rails must be between 30 and 40 millimetres in outside diameter and should be fixed so that there is no obstruction to the passage of the hand along the top 270° of horizontal and angled grabrails. There are also restrictions on room dimensions and toilet height. These regulations often vary from state to state or depending on property type, so it’s important to check with the relevant authorities in your area before carrying out any changes.
What Might You Include
The beauty of renovating your bathroom for your own use is that you are in control of many of the changes and can make decisions based on your own current and future needs. There are a few alterations that are commonly helpful for people with a wide range of disabilities. These are:
One of the most important features of an accessible sink is height. When choosing a sink, it’s important to ensure that it can be installed at a reachable height, while still leaving enough room underneath it to accommodate a wheelchair. Semi-recessed sinks are often best for this.
Adapted toilets come in many varieties and are a hugely important component of any accessible bathroom renovation. Adapted toilets should be suspended, ergonomic, and equipped a manual and pneumatic tilting mechanism. They should sit from around 440 millimetres to 500 millimetres in height. It’s important that the toilet roll holder is fitted at an easily reachable point, and it’s best for the toilet to be surrounded by grab rails. Ideally, consider whether a right or left-handed transfer is preferred when placing these accommodations. Beyond this, some toilet models have an opening at the front that allows them to double as a bidet, which can in some cases be helpful for users with disabilities.
Accessible showers usually have one key thing in common: space! Ensuring that there is enough space for a wheelchair user to enter the shower and transfer into a sturdy shower chair is a must. Frameless showers are often favoured for this purpose. Disability-friendly showers should include grab rails and anti-slip mats to prevent falls. It’s also a good idea to consider installing a removable shower head with a hose. This addition makes maneuvrability much easier as the shower head can be removed and angled when necessary.
Adapted baths are a particularly good idea if the person with a disability who will be using the bathroom requires hygiene assistance. As with showers, accessible baths need to consider transfer and space limitations, providing enough room for users to get safely in and out. They should also be serviced by non-slip mats and grab rails. If the primary user of an adapted bath requires a carer’s assistance, it’s worth considering whether installing a kneeling platform or seating space is a good idea. Preventing carers from having to kneel on the floor beside the bath, these spaces can ease the strain on carers’ bodies and make bathing much easier.
Sliding doors aren’t essential but they are useful. Sliding doors allow significantly more space for mobility devices and safe transfers. If sliding doors aren’t an option or a necessity, it’s a good idea to choose a door that opens outwards.
Free space is an accessible bathroom must! Many people with disabilities rely on a range of equipment to make mobility possible. Adapted bathroom designs should always include plenty of space for a wheelchair to perform a 360-degree turn, and for safe transfers to take place. There should be room for a carer if needed, and for any other assistive equipment pieces.
Ideally, most bathroom furniture should not be fixed. Built-in furniture is restrictive. In order for a bathroom to grow, develop and change to suit the needs of those who use it, it should avoid bulky items that can’t be moved if needed. For the same reason, it’s important to make effective storage plans, keeping clutter and subsequent tripping hazards to a minimum.
Who Can Help?
Getting started on a renovation project can be intimidating. Here are some of the best services providers to get in touch with for further advice:
As you plan for your bathroom renovation, take care to consider long-term needs and any potential changes in accessibility. Try to create an effective bathroom space that can grow with you and be further adapted if and when necessary.