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.

Jan 142010
 

Unlike a standard bathtub, walk-in tubs come with a host of choices. Here’s the key information you should think about before buying a walk-in tub. Let’s look at:

  • Benefits
  • Features and Options
  • Sizes
  • Construction
  • Cost

Benefits

A walk-in tub, or safety tub, is simply a bathtub with a door that allows you to walk into the tub without having to climb over the typical standard bathtub rim of 14 to 18 inches (35 to 46 cm). Walking into your tub gives you both safety and convenience.

Safety: Bathroom floors can be slippery. Additionally, lifting your leg to get over a bathtub rim makes you less stable. What’s more, you may have a disability, a temporary or permanent handicap, or be weak because of an injury, illness, or old age. For all of these reasons, getting in and out of a standard tub can lead to slips, falls, and trips to the hospital. Walk in tubs can allow you to once again bathe safely.

Convenience: Once in the deep walk-in tub, you sit comfortably and can easily reach the tub controls. What’s more, a host of options, including slip-resistant floors, grab bars, and massage therapy can make your bathing a thoroughly enjoyable experience. This is why even people who are not handicapped consider this high-end addition to their bathroom.

Available walk-in tub features and options

Walk in tubs range in price because of the features and options people include in them.

Step in Height: An important feature to consider is how high you have to step to get into your walk-in bathtub. With some walk-in tubs you will have to step up 7 or 8 inches (18 to 20 cm), about half the height of a standard tub. Most walk-in tubs offer lower step-in heights, ranging from about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm).

Door seal: Some walk-in tub doors open inward and some open outward. Regardless, when the door is closed there should be a tight seal once the water is in the tub. The seal holds the water in the tub and prevents leaks. When buying a walk-in tub, be sure you ask the company for a long-term or lifetime guarantee on their door seal.

Tub seat: Your seat inside the tub should be contoured to fit to your body so you can sit comfortably when taking your bath. Different people prefer different amounts of water covering their body while they are in the bath. So be sure the height of the seat is right for your height and bathing comfort. Also remember that if your walk-in tub doesn’t have a seat, you can use a shower seat to sit in the tub.

Tub flooring: The floor of the tub should be a non-slip or slip-resistant surface. That is, it should be treated to help prevent you from slipping if you have to stand up or move around in the tub.

Quick-drain: Some manufacturers offer an option that allows your tub to drain quickly. This option can drain the tub as much as 8 times faster than a normal drain. The benefit is that you can get out of the tub quicker.

Grab Bars: A grab bar attached to the tub wall can help you maintain your balance not only when you are in the tub, but while you are getting in and out of the tub. When the bar is being installed, be sure it is customized to your height. You can read Shower Grab Bars if you want more information.

Massage therapy: A typical walk-in tub option is whirlpool/jacuzzi jets. A motor forces water through these jets, thus providing a brisk massage to the areas of your body in front of the jets. This massaging action can help relieve the stresses in your body and provide a more relaxing bath.

Fixtures: Fixtures in a walk-in tub should be easy to reach and use when you are seated. Some companies will include a shower head you can use in the tub. These will typically be handheld and have a flexible hose so you can control where the water goes on your body.

A walk in tub can offer improved safety and convenience when you bathe. And adding various features and options will let you customize your bathing experience.

But there are other considerations when purchasing a walk in or safety bathtub.

Walk-in tub Sizes

A standard bathtub is usually around 60 inches (152 cm) long and 30 or 32 inches (76 to 81 cm) wide with a height of about 14 to 18 inches. The biggest difference with a walk in tub is its height. Typical walk in tubs range from between 36 and 47 inches (91 to 119 cm), although some are available that are only 20 inches (51 cm) high. The additional depth means you can be fully surrounded by water when you sit in the tub.

Walk-in tubs can vary in overall size. The most common tubs can fit into a standard tub space. That is, they will be 60 X 32 inches. Of course, they will usually be higher than the standard tub. This size is best for larger people as it will have the largest door and most room to move around in. It will provide you with a deep, immersive bath.

Other size walk-in tubs range in length, going down to about 36 inches (91 cm) long. These are good for smaller bathrooms or converting some other bathroom space.

The shorter sizes will usually come with some sort of kit intended to fill the space between the end of the tub and the bathroom wall. This extra space can be used as a shelf for bathing needs such as shampoo.

Walk-in tub Construction Materials

Walk in tubs are most often built of either acrylic or fiberglass.

Acrylic is formed as a continuous waterproof membrane. Because it is a solid surface it is highly durable and germ and stain resistant. Acrylic surfaces also tend to retain their color since the color is all the way through the material, not just on the surface. To provide added stability, manufacturers usually reinforce the acrylic with fiberglass.

Fiberglass is a polyester resin that is reinforced with fine glass particles. The fiberglass is then covered with a gelcoat. Gelcoat is a material of modified resins that provide the fiberglass with a high-quality finish. Fiberglass is lighter than acrylic, which can make a fiberglass walk-in tub easier to install. It also typically costs less than an acrylic walk-in tub. However, fiberglass is more porous than acrylic meaning, over time, it is more susceptible to mold and mildew that get into its pores.

Walk in tub Cost

Walk in tub prices can range from US$3000 to $15,000. The size, features, options, and materials will all impact the cost. For example, larger size walk in tubs use more materials so will cost more.

Acrylic construction will typically cost more than fiberglass. Some manufacturers will include safety features such as grab bars and non-slip flooring in their price. Others will charge extra for these items. An option such as a whirlpool or massage jet system usually needs a separate motor and pump, which will raise the cost of the tub.

And when considering pricing, don’t forget the cost of installation. A basic installation would consist of removing your old tub and installing the new tub, needed extensions, and putting in any new piping, motors, or pumps required. This can take from 1 to 2 days of labor.

Summary

Yes, walk-in tubs are pricey. But for people with physical disabilities they may be more than a luxury – they may be the only way they can safely enjoy taking a bath. And for others who long for a deep soaking and relaxing bathing experience a walk-in tub may be a necessity.

Jan 142010
 

A previous article discussed walk in tub benefits, features, and options. But there are other considerations when purchasing a walk in or safety bathtub. These include the size of the tub, the construction materials used, and its cost.

Walk-in tub Sizes

A standard bathtub is usually around 60 inches (152 cm) long and 30 or 32 inches (76 to 81 cm) wide with a height of about 14 to 18 inches. The biggest difference with a walk in tub is its height. Typical walk in tubs range from between 36 and 47 inches (91 to 119 cm), although some are available that are only 20 inches (51 cm) high. The additional depth means you can be fully surrounded by water when you sit in the tub.

Walk-in tubs can vary in size. The most common tubs can fit into a standard tub space. That is, they will be 60 X 32 inches. Of course, they will usually be higher than the standard tub. This size is best for larger people as it will have the largest door and most room to move around in. It will provide you with a deep, immersive bath.

Other size walk-in tubs range in length, going down to about 36 inches (91 cm) long. These are good for smaller bathrooms or converting some other bathroom space.

The shorter sizes will usually come with some sort of kit intended to fill the space between the end of the tub and the bathroom wall. This extra space can be used as a shelf for bathing needs such as shampoo.

Walk-in tub Construction Materials

Walk in tubs are most often built of either acrylic or fiberglass.

Fiberglass is a polyester resin that is reinforced with fine glass particles. The fiberglass is then covered with a gelcoat. Gelcoat is a material of modified resins that provide the fiberglass with a high-quality finish. Fiberglass is lighter than acrylic, which can make a fiberglass walk-in tub easier to install. It also typically costs less than an acrylic walk-in tub. However, fiberglass is more porous than acrylic meaning, over time, it is more susceptible to mold and mildew that get into its pores.

Walk in tub Cost

Walk in tub prices can range from US$3000 to $15,000. The size, features, options, and materials will all impact the cost.

For example, larger size walk in tubs use more materials so will cost more. Acrylic construction will typically cost more than fiberglass. Some manufacturers will include safety features such as grab bars and non-slip flooring in their price. Others will charge extra for these items. An option such as a whirlpool or massage jet system usually needs a separate motor and pump, which will raise the cost of the tub.

And when considering pricing, don’t forget the cost of installation. A basic installation would consist of removing your old tub and installing the new tub, needed extensions, and putting in any new piping, motors, or pumps required. This can take from 1 to 2 days of labor.