Apr 162011
 


When considering a shower seat you have to take into account the needs of the person who will be using the chair. It is important to realize that a simple shower stool may not be sufficient for the requirements of a person who has a physical restriction. But whether temporarily or permanently disabled, there’s no reason someone can’t experience the benefits of a hot shower.

Various types of shower seats are available that make it much easier for someone who is physically challenged to sit comfortably and safely in a shower.
Drive Stainless Steel Rehab Shower Commode with Open Front

First, for people who use a wheelchair, shower commode chairs are available. This special type of wheelchair can be made of waterproof PVC or may have an aluminum frame and stainless steel hardware. These chairs also have large wheels so the person in it can get themselves in and out of the shower. What’s more, many are lightweight and can be folded so they can be easily moved.

A commode chair often also has a special hole that permits the chair to double as a toilet. Underneath the chair is a removable container that can be taken out and cleaned as required.

Guardian Economy Non-Padded Transfer Bench
A person who is in a wheelchair may need, or prefer, to have a transfer bench. This is an adapted version of the standard shower seat. The design of the bench allows a person to move from their wheelchair onto the bench and then slide themselves into the shower. Many models allow you to adjust the seat height.

 

If you are concerned about water getting onto the floor, you don’t have to worry as many of these benches have a feature which allows the shower curtain to be pulled across. These benches are very useful for not only the disabled person, but also their caregiver. With this type of unit in place, the caregiver will have virtually no lifting to do. In fact, many people who are confined to a wheelchair can get in and out of the shower using one of these benches with no assistance at all. Bradley 9571 Bariatric Shower Seat, Right Hand Configuration

If you are looking at a long-term care situation, you should think about a wall mounted or fold down shower seat. These are extremely convenient and useful. Wall mounted shower seats can be conveniently folded out of the way when they are not needed. Many of these seats are made of a phenolic, which is a very durable long lasting plastic compound. If you plan to get a wall mount, there are a number of different features available, including safety locks, and arms.

A handicap shower seat is ideal for any person who needs assistance getting in and out of the shower or who just wants to have privacy for taking a shower. Replacing or modifying a shower or tub can be very costly, but the addition of the appropriate shower chair can make major renovations or alternations unnecessary. And the range of options for a handicap shower seat enables the physically challenged person to be involved in making their own choice.

The above seats can be purchased at:

Jun 042010
 

The article Creating the Handicap-Accessible Bathroom described modifying bathroom entrances, flooring, and toilets to create a barrier-free environment. The point was to create an unrestricted, comfortable environment for both disabled and non-disabled people.

Next, let’s consider what you can do about some other common bathroom elements: showers and bathtubs, sinks, faucets and mirrors, and grab bars.

Showers and Bathtubs

There’s no reason someone with disabilities shouldn’t be able to enjoy a shower. Shower enclosures are available that can accommodate the user with disabilities. Sometimes called a walk-in shower, the ideal accessible shower stall would be at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) square. The opening should be at least 3 feet (.914 meters) wide so a wheelchair or shower commode can get in. The entrance should not have a barrier or lip the user needs to climb over. The floor may have a slight downward slope to allow water to drain to the middle.

Inside the shower you can use a freestanding shower seat for the disabled person to sit on. These shower chairs, in either molded plastic or wood are available in models that can hold heavier people. Instead of a shower seat you can use a shower transfer bench. These units let the person move from their wheelchair to a seat which slides into place inside the shower.

Shower controls should be low enough for a seated person to reach them.

A handheld showerhead, with flexible hose, should be no higher than 48 inches (122 cm) above the floor so it can be easily reached. You can also put the showerhead on a vertical bar which allows its height to be adjusted. This means the shower can be used by people both sitting down and standing up.

If a bathtub is going to be in a barrier-free bathroom, it should have a wide tubside seat that will allow someone to sit on and move themselves into the tub. Sliding transfer benches are also available for tubs. These let the handicapped person transfer from their wheelchair to a seat that then lets the person slide into the open tub area. A freestanding shower seat can also be placed inside the tub.

A better tub option might be a walk-in tub . Most of these are built with a small 2-inch high step that many physically challenged people can get over. They can then sit in the seat inside the tub and be surrounded by water. Walk in tubs also take up less space than the standard 5-foot long tub.

Sinks, Faucets, and Mirrors

Sinks in the accessible bathroom should have floor space open in front of them. This will allow a person in a wheelchair to roll under it to reach the sink. Be sure that if there is a hot water pipe leading to the sink it is insulated to prevent burns.

The faucets on the sink should be a lever type or a single handle. If the lever is ADA compliant, it will take less than five pounds of pressure to operate. For extra safety, the faucets should have anti-scald valves to prevent the hot water from causing burns.

There are many options for disabled bathroom mirrors. A full height mirror mounted at the appropriate height is one possibility. You can also mount one of those flexible mirrors that pull out at the right height for a seated person. Another option is installing a mirror that tilts down above the sink. Mirrors are also available that have a pulley system and crank. The mirror normally hangs flat against the bathroom wall until it is needed by someone who is seated. Then, by turning the crank the person can angle the mirror down to where they can see themselves.

Grab Bars

Finally, grab bars should be located throughout any barrier-free bathroom. Grab bars should be on the shower and bathtub walls to help people get in and out of the tub or shower. Grab bars should also be available on both sides of the toilet. Some toilet grab bars can also be swung out of the way when not in use.

Newer style looped grab bars are also available for use on both sides of the toilet. A shorter person can use the bottom loop while a taller person can use the upper ones.

Summary

Physical limitations sometimes make it difficult for some people to use what we consider “normal” bathrooms. By using modern accessibility options you can create a stylish bathroom that will be accessible to all.

Jun 042010
 

The primary goal of a handicap accessible bathroom is to create an environment that allows people to move around without any serious obstructions. When I say “people,” I mean more than anyone who is confined to a wheelchair.

There are many different people who can use a handicap accessible bathroom. I’m referring to anyone who:

  • Is using a walker or crutches either because of age or a temporary medical condition.
  • Has a temporary disability such as a broken leg.
  • Is living with a condition such as severe arthritis.
  • Is concerned with bathroom safety

With an aging population, these type bathrooms will become more common. You can design an accessible bathroom from scratch. But you can also make modifications to an existing bathroom that will make it much more convenient for both permanently and temporarily disabled people.

Below, you can read about the elements to consider when creating this type bathroom.

  • Entrances
  • Flooring
  • Toilet
  • Showers
  • Bathtubs
  • Sinks, Faucets, and Mirrors
  • Grab Bars

Bathroom Entrance

Let’s start with the entrance. This is typically an issue for people confined to a wheelchair.

If the bathroom door is less than 34 to 38 inches (86 to 97 cm) it will be difficult for a wheelchair to get through. On the other hand, if the door is larger than 38 inches, a person in a seated position may have difficulty opening and closing it.

Consider using a D-shaped handle or a lever for the door as opposed to round knobs. Both young children and people with arthritis will find them easier to move.

Another option is to remove the door completely. This raises privacy issues as the bathroom is then exposed. However, if the bathroom is attached to a bedroom that has its own door, this may be the way to go.

Bathroom Flooring

Inside the bathroom, think about the space it would take a wheelchair to move around in. The usual recommendation is a circular floor space of 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter. This should allow a wheelchair to make a complete turnaround in the bathroom. This much available space will also help people who are using crutches.

Keep the floor as clutter free as possible. Waste baskets, clothes hampers, wicker baskets, and plants can all be barriers to someone trying to get around. Even for people who are not in wheelchairs, these items can represent something to trip over. The edges of small rugs, even those with non-skid backing, represent a tripping danger for people with injuries that result in them having to hobble around a bathroom.

Slip-resistant ceramic tile is an option in a handicap bathroom, but there is controversy about which tile to use. The Ceramic Tile Institute of America (CTIOA) and the Tile Council of America of North America (TCNA) each use different testing standards for testing slip resistance.

Generally speaking, smaller, more textured tile, with more grout joints will be more slip resistant. But as this type of tile gets dirtier, it becomes less slip resistant. Please consult with a professional when considering installing a slip-resistant floor.

Another option is applying a liquid non-slip floor coating or finish to your flooring. Not all coatings are appropriate for all flooring materials so be sure to check the label before applying.

Toilet

The ability to easily use the toilet is a key feature of any barrier-free bathroom. Master bathrooms in newer homes often have a water closet which is basically a toilet in its own small room. This represents a problem for a handicap accessible toilet. The entrance to the water closet should be as large as the entrance to the bathroom itself – that is from 34 to 38 inches wide. And the room itself should have space for a person to transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet seat.

As for the toilet itself, a number of options are available. If someone has difficulty getting up and down from a standard toilet seat, you can purchase a toilet safety frame. The frame attaches underneath the toilet seat. Its height can usually be adjusted. It also has arm rests the handicapped person can use to help get on and off the toilet seat. Toilet frames are manufactured to handle different weight capacities so be sure to get the right size for the person using it.

Another option is the toilet riser. This is a spacer installed under the base of your current toilet. It then adds about 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) of height to the existing standard toilet height of 14 or 15 inches (36 to 38 cm). The higher toilet seat is then easier for someone to get on and off.

Instead of adding a riser, you can replace your standard toilet with a taller one. Toilets are available in 17- and 18-inch (43 to 46 cm) height, which should be tall enough for the disabled user.

When using a toilet riser or taller toilet, you should add grab bars to both sides of the toilet. This makes it easier for someone to get on and off the toilet.

Showers

There’s no reason someone with disabilities shouldn’t be able to enjoy a shower. Shower enclosures are available that can accommodate the user with disabilities. Sometimes called a walk-in shower, the ideal accessible shower stall would be at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) square. The opening should be at least 3 feet (.914 meters) wide so a wheelchair or shower commode can get in. The entrance should not have a barrier or lip the user needs to climb over. The floor may have a slight downward slope to allow water to drain to the middle.

Shower controls should be low enough for a seated person to reach them. A handheld showerhead, with flexible hose, should be no higher than 48 inches (122 cm) above the floor so it can be easily reached. You can also put the showerhead on a vertical bar which allows its height to be adjusted. This means the shower can be used by people both sitting down and standing up.

For more information, read Handicap Accessible Showers.

Different types of shower seats are available for use inside the handicap accessible shower. These include:

  • Freestanding shower seat
  • Hinged shower seat
  • Shower commode chair
  • Transfer bench

For more information about these shower seats, read What Type Shower Seats Are Available?.

Bathtubs

If a bathtub is going to be in a barrier-free bathroom, it should have a wide tubside seat that will allow someone to sit on and move themselves into the tub. Sliding transfer benches are also available for tubs. These let the handicapped person transfer from their wheelchair to a seat that then lets the person slide into the open tub area. A freestanding shower seat can also be placed inside the tub.

A better tub option might be a walk-in tub. Most of these are built with a small 2-inch high step that many physically challenged people can get over. They can then sit in the seat inside the tub and be surrounded by water. Walk in tubs also take up less space than the standard 5-foot long tub. For more information read Everything You Need to Know About Walk in Bathtubs.

Sinks, Faucets, and Mirrors

Sinks in the accessible bathroom should have floor space open in front of them. This will allow a person in a wheelchair to roll under it to reach the sink. Be sure that if there is a hot water pipe leading to the sink it is insulated to prevent burns. For more information read Two Types of Handicap Accessible Sinks.

The faucets on the sink should be a lever type or a single handle. If the lever is ADA compliant, it will take less than five pounds of pressure to operate. For extra safety, the faucets should have anti-scald valves to prevent the hot water from causing burns.

There are many options for disabled bathroom mirrors. A full height mirror mounted at the appropriate height is one possibility. You can also mount one of those flexible mirrors that pull out at the right height for a seated person. Another option is installing a mirror that tilts down above the sink. Mirrors are also available that have a pulley system and crank. The mirror normally hangs flat against the bathroom wall until it is needed by someone who is seated. Then, by turning the crank the person can angle the mirror down to where they can see themselves.

Grab Bars

Finally, grab bars should be located throughout any barrier-free bathroom. Grab bars should be on the shower and bathtub walls to help people get in and out of the tub or shower. Grab bars should also be available on both sides of the toilet. Some toilet grab bars can also be swung out of the way when not in use.

Newer style looped grab bars are also available for use on both sides of the toilet. A shorter person can use the bottom loop while a taller person can use the upper ones.

For more information read Use Grab Bars For Safety in Your Bathroom.

Summary

By using modern accessibility options you can create a stylish bathroom that will be accessible to all. Your goal should be to create an unrestricted, comfortable environment for both disabled and non-disabled people.

Jul 032009
 


If you are physically challenged because you are overweight or permanently or temporarily physically disabled, you can still experience the comfort of a shower.

The products available to help you include:
• Bariatric shower seats
• Wheeled or shower/commode chairs
• Shower transfer benches

Bariatric shower seats

The term “bariatric,” if you are not familiar with it, refers to weight. Simply put, these are shower seats that can hold more weight than the standard shower seat.

Bariatric shower seats are intended for people from 250 pounds and up. There are chairs available for people who weigh up to 700 pounds. These chairs are built to provide extra stability to the larger person in the shower.

Typically, the seat size will be wider than a standard shower seat to accommodate a larger person. Some bariatric shower chairs also have backrests and cross braces for additional stability and support. Be sure the legs of the seat are adjustable so the overweight person can move the seat to a position where his or her legs can also provide support when sitting.

Wheeled or shower/commode chairs

Wheeled shower seats, also called shower/commode chairs, allow people with disabilities to move themselves to the shower and provide seating when taking a shower. Additionally, this type shower chair can be used as a raised toilet seat as these chairs have a removable commode pail.

Wheels should be a major consideration when buying this type of chair. They should be large to accommodate easier movement across various types of floor surfaces. Most will come with swivel casters and safety locks.

Shower/commode chairs that tilt are also available. This allows caregivers to adjust the chair to more easily reach the person in it. The ability to adjust this type of shower seat is important when considering the growth of special needs children as well as the comfort of the adult user.

Shower Transfer Bench

Typically used for transferring from a wheelchair to a bathtub, this type of shower seat can also be used for moving from a wheelchair to a shower.

Shower transfer benches are usually one piece with a long seat in two parts, and four legs. The person moves from their wheelchair to the transfer bench, which is the outside piece, then slides to the actual seat.

Available options usually include padded seating and removable or adjustable backrests and armrests.

There are also sliding shower transfer benches. In these the person transfers from their wheelchair to a shower seat. The seat then slides, most often on rails, to a position where they can more comfortably take a shower. Some shower transfer benches have swivel chairs to add to the user’s convenience.

Typical features include a safety belt and a handle that can be attached to either side of the seat.

Another type of shower transfer seat is a wall-mounted shower seat that swings into the shower. First, the user transfers onto the seat from outside the shower. Then the chair swivels into the shower. When their shower is finished, the user swivels back out of the shower.

Specialty shower seats such as these help physically challenged people be comfortable when taking a shower.