Thursday, September 30, 2021

More than Just a Handicap Accessible Bathroom

White bathroom with a zero entry shower for ultimate accessibility.

Designing a handicap accessible bathroom ensures that anyone with a disability can easily and safely make full use of the space. Out of accessibility design was born aging in place design, which aims to do the same for the elderly. 

New retirees who downsized into homes they planned on staying in for the remainder of their lives quickly spotted a problem. They didn’t need a handicap accessible bathroom, but weren’t sure whether or not they would in the future. 

Thus, universal design was born. The theory of universal design makes bathrooms accessible to everyone regardless of ability, age, size, etc. Universal design creates spaces that are comfortable, functional, and look good enough that anyone would want one.

9 Necessities for Universal Design in the Bathroom

The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house for anyone, let alone the handicapped, aged, or children.  The CDC says that about 235,000 people over the age of 15 visit emergency rooms for bathroom-related injuries every year. 

Making the bathroom safer is a main priority for universal design in the bathroom. Functionality is the other big player. Many people worry that a functionally accessible bathroom doesn’t look as good as a traditional one. While it needs to incorporate certain specifications, creative architects and designers have made a universal bathroom cosmetically indistinguishable from any other bathroom.

Let’s take a dive into the minds of the makers of a universal design bathroom. Here are 12 things they think about and how they make it look good.

#1 No-Drama Doorway

You can’t enjoy that bathroom unless you can easily get into it. The hallway outside the door should have a width of at least 36 inches to ensure enough space to get a wheelchair turned to face the door. The doorway itself should be at least 32 inches wide. Doors that swing out instead of in leave more space inside the bathroom.

There are many handsome options for doors. A simple way to get a gorgeous doorway with plenty of clearance is double doors like French doors. Pocket doors are a great option too since they move completely out of the way.

#2 Main Floor Living

One-level homes are all the rage for aging in place and universal designs. You have everything you need all on one level and don’t have to worry about the dangers of stairs. Most multi-level homes have half bathrooms on the main level that have to be converted  at great expense to make them accessible. 

Full bathrooms on the main level are becoming much more common. The spa bathroom trend is also helpful, introducing luxurious elements into the bathroom that go hand in hand with universal design: think wet rooms, grand entries, roomy square footage, etc. 

#3 Expand the Bathroom Real Estate

You’ll need an open area of about five feet in order to achieve the right turning radius for a wheelchair, but this can also end up looking out of place unless you’re creating a luxurious bathroom with a generous amount of space.

These large bathrooms can be dressed up with spa-like features that make the space feel less empty but maintain the area you need.

#4 Light It Up

Take something that’s already potentially dangerous like the bathroom and you’ll multiply that danger exponentially if it’s dark. Lighting is one of the easiest ways to make a bathroom safer. Another trick is to use contrasting colors so that things like edges of countertops and freestanding tubs pop out of the design so they are more visible.

Employ general lighting across the room, vanity lighting, sconces, and lights over the tub and shower. Include some accent lighting too. It not only gives the room some mood but brings additional lighting and safety.

#5 Hardware Matters Too

Knobs and pulls on the cabinets, handles on the doors, and faucets all play a huge role in accessibility in the bathroom. Small knobs or ornate pulls can be hard to grasp and sometimes make it more difficult to get things done in the bathroom.

Long d-shaped pulls, one-handed or touchless faucets, and lever door knobs make it easier to get full use of the bathroom.

White floating vanity in a white bathroom providing better bathroom accessibility.

#6 Floating Vanity

A wall-mounted or floating vanity is a must-have in an accessible bathroom. They provide clearance under the sink for wheelchair access and can allow for you to sit while you use the space. They can also be placed at any height (since they’re not dependent on the floor).

Floating vanities are right on trend. Choose from dozens of options in all styles to create a bathroom that’s easy to use and looks great. 

#7 Zero-Entry Bathing

Any raised areas on the floor are a potential hazard. Transitions between one room and another should never have a raised edge. The same goes for the shower and bath. Having to climb into a bathtub or step/wheel over a shower pan decreases accessibility significantly. 

You can get around this with walk-in bathtubs but a favorite trend that fits right in with this is the walk-in shower/zero-entry shower/wet room. Spa-like wet rooms are essentially expanded showers or shower/bathtub combinations that are a waterproof room within a room. They are ideal for universal design bathrooms.

Hand held shower attachment at the perfect height for universal design.

#8 Hand-Held Shower Attachments

Once upon a time, a handshower was a tell-tale sign of an accessible design. But these days, no luxurious spa shower is complete without one. The functionality of the handshower has moved beyond necessity and become an item of luxury. 

In fact, the latest in shower technology not only has accessible attachments, but panels that come much lower in the shower for an experience everyone can enjoy. Think, body jets, steam showers, and more. 

#9 Inconspicuous Toilet

It’s hard to get around those taller toilets made for accessibility. They stick out like a sore thumb. But there’s one very good way to skip the whole dilemma. Wall-mounted toilets.

A wall-mounted toilet removes the taller toilet completely from the equation. You can mount it at any height for the ultimate in universality and style. Some well-placed and discreet grab bars can add support that anyone can appreciate.

Include universal design in your bathroom plans. Ensure that your bathroom is fully functional today and into the future for everyone.

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