Nov 052010
 

If you’re short on space in your shower, but still want a place to sit while in the shower, the fold down or retractable shower seat may be your best choice. Another name for this type shower seat is the hinged shower chair.

The fold-down seat is attached to the shower wall. The seat can then be lifted up or down and locked into place when you want to use it. When not being used, you again fold the chair down or up. That means that when not in use the seat will lie flat against the wall, taking up little shower space.

This type shower seat is very convenient because it stays in the shower where it’s handy for anyone who needs to use it. But if someone taking a shower doesn’t need it, the seat is out of the way. For more information about the benefits of shower seats, read What Are the Benefits of Shower Seats?

Attachment of the Seat

Since people are going to sit on this type shower seat, how it is attached to the shower enclosure is important. These chairs should NOT be attached to a shower wall enclosure that is only a hollow type surface such as drywall, fiberglass, acrylic, or sheetrock.

These seats need to be attached to a reinforced backing such as wood or steel that is behind the shower enclosure wall. The mounting or anchoring bolts or screws should be appropriate for the type of backing they are being attached to. If you are not comfortable doing this type of construction, consult a plumbing professional.

As an alternative, some fold down shower seats are sold with legs. The legs will provide added support to the person sitting in the chair and fold up with the chair. Some of these legs are also adjustable so the seat can be used by people of different heights. Adjusting the legs also lets you take care of shower floors that slope downward toward the drain in the middle.

Features

Here are some of the key features you should consider when buying a new fold down shower seat.

Weight capacity: Assuming it’s attached correctly, a typical seat can hold about 250 pounds (113 KG). With legs, seats can hold more weight, such as 400 pounds (181 KG). Always check the weight capacity of any fold down shower seat you buy to be sure no one will get hurt while sitting in it.

Seat size: Seats come in different lengths and widths, so be sure to find one that will fit the bottom that’s going to be in it. A typical length is 18 inches (45 cm), while a typical width can be from 16 to 18 inches (40 to 45 Cm).

Seat material: You will have many different options when it comes to the material you choose for your retractable shower chair.

Teak is a stylish and popular option. It’s a brownish wood that is strong and resistant to moisture. It typically costs more than any of the other seat material options.

Rubberwood, also called parawood, is a lighter color than teak, but can be stained. It is also water resistant and less expensive than teak. If you want the look and feel of wood, but want something that is ecologically friendly, you may want to consider rubberwood.

Both teak and rubberwood seats usually have slats in them to let the water drain through.

Phenolic is a water resistant plastic often used in hospital fold down shower seats. It is a hard and strong material. It will also have slats to allow water to drain through.

Some manufacturers offer phenolic seats with padding for greater comfort while sitting.

Hardware: There are also many options for the mounting bracket and hinge materials used for these chairs. In addition to stainless steel, chrome, brass, and brushed nickel are often available options.

With the combination of hardware and seat material you can be sure the fold down seat fits in with the décor of your shower and bathroom.

Be sure the hardware you use has no rough edges so it will not cut anyone using the shower seat. Also, some shower chairs come with covers for the metal hardware.

Other options:

Some fold down seats are sold with backs and arms. A chair with a back offers greater support to the person using the chair. Arms allow people to sit more comfortably. These are especially useful when this type chair is being used by a physically challenged person who requires caregiver help when taking a shower.

Commode type chairs with U-shaped cutouts are also available for handicapped people who need the additional convenience.

Summary

The retractable shower seat is a great solution for a small shower that needs a shower seat. Choose the features you need before buying. When installing, be sure all the hardware is attached securely so the seat can be used without any worries.

Don’t confuse this seat with the folding shower seat which does not attach to the shower wall.

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.

Nov 232009
 


If you are elderly, physically disabled, or handicapped, getting in and out of the shower can often times be a real hassle for you, or at other times, almost completely impossible. The good news for you is that there are now solutions to this problem, as more and more shower manufacturers are investing time and money into producing shower stalls that you can more easily get into. They understand the difficulties that you have because of your age or disability, and know that you require a more convenient shower entry option.

Basic Requirements

Basically, handicap accessible shower stalls do away with the high lip entry that is standard in most showers. By getting rid of this step, the shower floor is then either level with the bathroom floor or is at a small slope (about 2%).

This flat or barrier free shower entry allows seniors and people with limited mobility to more easily walk into their shower stall. It also allows caregivers to more easily transfer people in wheelchairs to the shower using a transfer bench or shower seat.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has published standards for this type of shower enclosure. Their standard (4.21.7) says that shower stalls that are 36 in by 36 inches (915 mm by 915 mm) should not have an entry higher than ½ an inch (13 mm). Shower stalls that are 30 inches by 60 inches (760 mm by 1525 mm) should not have any curbs at all.

You can read all the ADA standards by clicking on this ADA link and then selecting the PDF with all the standards.

Other Considerations

There are other considerations for installing a handicap accessible shower. The shower floor should be treated with waterproof material and include a non-skid finish. These precautions can also help prevent falls. Also make sure the water controls are located at a convenient height, especially if the person using the shower will be in a wheelchair. As far as the shower door goes, a large glass door can be difficult to maneuver. Consider having no door or a moveable shower curtain.

Also, remember the location of the shower faucets. Because the person using them will be seated, they must be low enough to reach while sitting. A separate water pipe and faucet can be built in for this low height. Or a flexible showerhead that moves up and down on a vertical bar can be used. This arrangement can also be very convenient for younger children who want to use the shower.

If building or remodeling a shower to accommodate handicap access is too big a deal, think about using a waterproof shower seat, shower chair, or built-in shower bench. For people in wheelchairs, shower commode chairs or sliding transfer benches are available that allow easier access to the shower.

For more information read What Type Shower Seats are Available?

Using a handicap accessible shower can provide seniors, the disabled and physically challenged people the safety, freedom, and comfort they want when taking a shower.