Universal design is simply making a product or environment usable by all people without the need for any specialized adaptation. Using the concepts of universal design will make your bathroom a more comfortable and convenient space for people of all ages, not just the elderly or people with physical disabilities. By following the steps below, you can begin the process of making your bathroom accessible to all.
Shower - Put a Bench in It
One of the quickest and easiest fixes you can make is with your shower space. If you are looking at installing a new shower, choose one that is designed to accept a portable bench or bathing seat. Usually curb-less or roll-in shower models are the best choices. These types of models allow easy access to the shower without having to step over a tub. If you want to work with your existing shower and don’t want to have to replace it with a new one, there are several updates you can do to make it more accessible. First, install grab bars along the shower wall for safety. They are handy for everyone and come in fashionable designs including brass and stainless steel. Second, replace your old shower head with a new hand-held shower head that enables ease of access to those who have to remain seated while bathing. Lastly, add a slip-resistant shower mat to avoid slips in the shower.
Floor - Stop the Slips
The type of material that makes up the floor in your bathroom is a critical component in preventing slips and falls. Marble floors are the worst as they are not at all forgiving if you fall on them. Vinyl tiles with a matte finish are a preferable choice, as the higher the gloss the more slippery the tile can be. Smaller tiles are also better for footing as they include a lot of grout and trim that can help stop slips. If changing tiles isn’t an option, look for some anti-slip products that use grit and resin to coat existing tiles. This will give them additional slip resistance and are less costly than replacing the entire floor.
Toilet - Raise the Seat
A toilet with a higher than normal chair height offers easier access and comfort to all. Also, when installing a new toilet make sure there is ample space on both sides of the toilet for maneuvering capabilities. If the space around the toilet is less than 18 inches from the wall, then relocation of the toilet may be required. If that isn't an option, then you can also look into the relocation of toilet plumbing to free up additional space.
Sink - Create Space Underneath
The main issue with traditional sinks that have floor cabinets underneath is that they provide little leg room when washing. An alternative to this are wall-mounted sinks. Wall-mounted sinks provide additional knee and leg space underneath the sinks. If piping is exposed under the sink as a result of a wall-mounted model then it needs to be padded or concealed. Also, a good practice is to make sure the mirror behind the sink rests right above the back splash to enable shorter people or those in wheel chairs the opportunity to use it.
Doors - Make Them Swing
Ample entry way space going in and out of the bathroom is a critical piece of universal design. Individuals with wheel chairs or walkers often need the additional space for their equipment. A quick fix to add in some extra space is to install swing-away or swing clear hinges on the door that will allow it to open fully against the wall, increasing the clear width by two inches. Two inches might not sound like a lot, but it is when it prevents one from entering a bathroom.
Floor Space - The More the Better
In general, more space goes a long way in bathrooms that incorporate universal design. Space provides a feeling of comfort and functionality. With that in mind, there should be at least a 60-inch diameter of space inside the bathroom for a wheel chair to be able to fully turn around without knocking into things. If you don't have that much space, then you may need to incorporate some of the steps mentioned above, like wall-mounted sinks or even in-wall toilets, in order to free up this valuable commodity.