We use bathrooms every day, but it isn’t exactly the safest place in the house due to the many hazards that the wet and slippery environment poses. This risk is especially true for users with mobility issues – whether from disabilities or weakening ability due to age. That’s why it’s essential that, if there is someone in your household that meet these criteria, the bathroom should be made safe and accessible for their safety and comfort.
Here are our top 5 tips to make your bathroom more accessible for users with mobility issues:
1. Install grab rails and strips
Grab rails are some of the most common features of accessible bathrooms as they help those with mobility issues to support and stabilise themselves, whether sitting down or standing up. Make sure that there are grab rails near the toilet, tub, and shower, as they make using these fixtures easier. Grab strips, on the other hand, can be stuck to the base of a bathtub or the shower tray to provide extra grip to prevent slipping.
There are a lot of grab rail styles and options available at home improvement stores, but you should generally opt for those that screw into the wall or the fixture rather than stick-on ones as they are sturdier and provide more support for users. Grab rails also have ratings for how much weight they can support – make sure you consider this before making a purchase.
2. Consider toilet height
In Australia, special over-height toilets for people with mobility issues tend to be about 450mm high to make it easier for a person with mobility issues or disabilities to lower themselves on the toilet, stand up after, and get onto the toilet from a wheelchair. It is advisable that you have your toilet at this height as well for the comfort of those with mobility issues. If you cannot replace your current toilet, thicker toilet seats and seat raisers are available to add height to them instead.
Aside from the actual fixture, make sure that all other essentials, such as toilet papers, sanitary pads, and other personal hygiene supplies, are within reach from the toilet. They should be placed at more accessible heights, avoiding extra effort and excessive movement to reach for them.
3. Renovate your showers/bathtubs
It can be costly to remodel a shower or bathtub, but it is still well worth the added safety of a person with mobility issues or disabilities. Showers should have no hobs (step overs) or lippages on the floor to avoid people from stepping or wheeling over them, and they should be no smaller than 1100x1100mm. They should be able to comfortably accommodate the width of a wheelchair and another person that may be assisting the user.
Depending on the user’s preference for comfort, a shower chair with wheels or a built-in shower seat can be used or installed so they do not need to stand and risk slipping or falling in the shower. Handheld showers are also useful to let the user quickly manipulate the water and wash themselves.
4. Clear access to sinks and bathroom counters
A fundamental rule for sinks and bathroom counters is that the user should be able to insert or put their feet below the surface – this is accomplished by having pedestal sinks. If these cannot be installed, consider removing cabinet doors instead to make access to stored items easier and so that wheelchair users can still accommodate themselves. The sink needs to have 600mm maximum rim height, with a 675mm clearance for knees.
Other improvements to the sink and bathrooms are: installing a single handle faucet that can be quickly turned on (or using a hands-free faucet with a sensor) and placing items that are regularly used – such as hand towels, toothbrushes, and first-aid supplies – within reach.
5. Provide good lighting
Good lighting is essential in making sure that accidents can easily be avoided by being able to see the hazards beforehand. Ensure that light switches are easily reachable, even by those who are using wheelchairs or walkers. It can be worth investing in “smart home” lighting options, such as voice-activated lights.
Lights should be diffused throughout to avoid glare. Dimmers can also be installed so users can adjust the brightness or softness of lights to the ideal level.
It’s worth noting that not every solution and upgrade to your bathroom to make it more accessible will be efficient and effective for its users. It’s essential to have professional advice before renovations start to make sure that the equipment you install or use, and the overall layout of your bathroom is suited to the needs of everyone, especially for those with disabilities.
For your accessible bathroom consultation and needs, contact Accessable Home Modifications at 1300 778 542 or visit accessablehomes.com.au.