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.


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 262009

When you start searching for shower seats, you’ll suddenly find yourself looking at shower chairs, shower benches, shower stools, and many other options. How to sort this all out?

This article will talk about the different broad categories of shower seats. Understanding the range of options will help you decide in which direction you want to go.

The general categories include:

  • Freestanding
  • Hinged or Folding
  • Built in
  • Wheeled / Shower Commode
  • Transfer benches


This is the most typical type of shower seat you’ll find. Basically, these are shower seats that sit on the floor of your shower and are not fixed in any way. This means you can move the seat in and out of the shower. Some allow folding so they can be put away when not being used.

Portability, then, is a key benefit of this type of shower seat. When you don’t want to use it, just move it.

Within the freestanding category, many different features are available including seat shapes, seat height, and backrests. These type chairs are also available for people of different sizes and weights. For more detailed information, read Three Key Shower Seat Features You Should Consider.

Freestanding seats can be made of various materials including PVC, steel, aluminum, teak, or a combination of these.

Not all freestanding seats are square. Seats that fit into the corner of your shower are also available.

Hinged or Folding

As its name implies, the hinged shower seat is attached to the shower wall with a hinge that allows it to be folded up or down when not being used. You will also run across this type being called a fold down or retractable shower seat.

These seats may be built as just a seat or may have legs that rest on the shower floor. The legs then provide added support for the user. The legs may even be adjustable to accommodate more than one user.

Space savings is a key benefit of this type seat. That’s because when the folded seat sits against the shower wall, you will have more space available in the shower. When more than one person has to use the same shower and one likes to sit and the other doesn’t, this is the ideal solution.

If you are considering this type of shower seat, be sure it is attached solidly and can easily hold your weight. Also use hardware with rounded edges that will not cut or nick your body.


Built-in shower seats are seats that are a permanent part of your shower design. Also called shower benches, they usually run the entire length of the wall they are attached to provide plenty of space for sitting and storage of bathroom items. They can be covered with tile to match the shower enclosure or with granite or marble for that touch of elegance.


Design is an important benefit of built-in shower seats. They add depth and dimension to a shower which is visually appealing with modern showers with frameless glass doors.

Another type of built in shower seat is a corner shower bench. This is triangular seat that is built into a corner of the shower wall. It offers the same design benefits with the added benefit of taking up less space in the shower. They are, however, much smaller than the shower bench that runs the length of the shower wall.

The freestanding, hinged, and built in shower seats are intended for both disabled and non-disabled people. Two other types of shower seats are primarily for those who are handicapped.

These are:

  • Wheeled/Shower Commode Chair
  • Transfer bench

Wheeled / Shower Commode Chair

Wheeled shower seats are for those needing assistance getting in and out of the shower. They are also referred to as shower commode chairs. They let the user get in the shower themselves or be helped in, avoiding the need to transfer from a wheelchair to a separate seat. A commode chair allows for the user to easily move to and from the toilet and shower.

The wheels are usually large swivel casters with safety locks. Larger wheels provide less rolling resistance so that a caregiver can more easily move someone across a floor. Other features to consider include backrests and armrests, and the ability to tilt the seat frame so the user or caregiver can shower more easily.

Obviously, the entrance to the shower should be flat to allow the wheels to roll smoothly into and out of the shower.

They can be constructed of stainless steel or PVC.

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 someone 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 or six 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, allow physically challenged people to be more comfortable when taking a shower.