Making a bathroom accessible to people who have a disability can greatly improve their quality of life within the home. Bathrooms have specific challenges for those who use wheelchairs or walkers, or who have mobility problems. Solving these problems during a remodel can help to make the bathroom more user-friendly and accessible for elderly or handicapped members of the household.
Entry and Turning Radius
If you are modifying the bathroom for a person who uses a wheelchair or a walker, make sure the doorway to the bathroom is large enough for her to enter comfortably. Typically, this means expanding the doorway to about 36 inches wide to accommodate a turn from a hallway into the bathroom. Additionally, once inside the bathroom, the person using a walker or wheelchair needs enough space to turn around completely. This turning radius is typically 60 inches of clear space in the center of the bathroom.
Sink and Faucet Accessibility
The sink in an accessible bathroom may mean different things. In a bathroom used by an individual in a wheelchair, the sink needs to be open underneath, so the wheelchair user can wheel straight up to it. For a person in a walker, a sink may need to be slightly higher than usual — 34 inches instead of the standard 31 inches — so the user can stand straight against it without bending or slumping down. The faucet in an accessible bathroom must have lever handles that can be turned without grasping or a touch-operated faucet, rather than a faucet with handles that must be grasped to be turned.
Toilet heights vary from a standard 15 inches from floor to seat rim to a more accessible 17 to 19 inches from floor to seat rim. To meet accessibility codes, the toilet must be a minimum of 17 inches tall. If the person using the bathroom uses a wheelchair or has limited mobility, grab bars must be installed on each side of the toilet to help assist in the transfer to the toilet, as well as standing and lowering. If the bathroom is being modified for a wheelchair user, there should be enough room for the user to park the wheelchair near enough to the toilet to make a comfortable transfer.
Tub and Shower
An accessible tub or shower unit contains several components. Tubs can be fitted with a door that is vacuum-sealed when shut. The door is opened to allow the user to enter and sealed shut before filling. Showers can be roll-in, with no curb, for a wheelchair user, or they may have a small curb and be fitted with a seat so a wheelchair or walker user can be transferred safely inside. Both tubs and showers must be fitted with grab bars to help the user to enter and exit safely. The shower head should be handheld and moveable to allow for greater control in washing. Valves should have a lever or be touch-operated to avoid having to grasp the valve to operate the shower.