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Putting together and designing a functional and easily usable handicap bathroom is not so difficult when you work to a good plan and have accessibility uppermost in mind. The main idea is to create an easy to use facility for people with disabilities or who have limited mobility.
Providing wheelchair access to the room is a necessary aspect of that design but some consideration must be taken to allow for such space limitations that exist in a regular bathroom and tend to cause problems for some users. There are several aspects to this type of bathroom design that must be taken into account when it is to be incorporated into the accessibility and navigability required by a person that most needs it.
So let's take a look at some of the ways in which a bathroom can be specially designed for use by a person with disabilities, the elderly, the wheelchair user and those suffering from debilitating conditions such as severe arthritis, Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis and the like.
Handicapped Bathroom Design Considerations
The first and foremost consideration to be made in handicap bathroom design is access for wheelchair users. It should be remembered that a wheelchair needs about 60% of the total floor space to be clear for maneuverability, with sufficient distance between furnishings and any jutting walls, or pillars to get past and turn around.
Next is the task of providing the necessary furnishings that can be used by people with disabilities, the elderly, weak and infirm and those with degenerative diseases. It also must be remembered that things that are taken for granted by able bodied people, such as:
- Door handles
- Light switches
- Power switches and plug outlets
need to be easily operated by those that may not have the necessary strength in their hands to operate regular devices or indeed may not even have hands. Such devices then need to be easily operated by prosthetic appendages as well as those lacking fingers on one or both hands.
Other handicap bathroom accessories also need to be chosen with due consideration.
A handicap accessible bathroom must have light switches at low level for wheelchair users to be able to use them. The same goes for vanity units, sinks and their faucets that must all be usable by a person sitting in a wheelchair without them needing to lean over anything to operate them.
This is important for sinks that need to have room beneath them for a wheelchair to go under so that the user can use the sink sitting upright in comfort.
Handicap Bathroom Accessories and Furniture
The main items of handicap bathroom furniture are the shower and/or bath, the toilet and the sink, or vanity unit if you prefer to refer to it as that.
A handicap shower enclosure needs to be large enough for a wheelchair to be wheeled in, turned and wheeled out again. It must have a shower seat so the user can sit whilst showering and sufficient grab rails so that they can use them to move around and transfer from a wheelchair to the seat.
It needs to be free of a raised water retainer, instead employing a grated gutter so that a wheelchair can run smoothly over it while water is prevented from spilling onto the bathroom floor.
A handicap bathtub, on the other hand must be sited so that a wheelchair user has room to open the door and transfer from the chair to the bath and vice versa when they're done. Faucets must be easy to operate and switch off properly with almost no pressure from the hand or artificial hand of the user.
The toilet must be of the correct height for ease of transfer to and from a wheelchair as well as having the necessary grab rails in place for safety. The flush should be easily operated by anyone including those with artificial limbs or reduced strength in their hands.
Other accessories can include towel racks situated at the correct height for ease of use by wheelchair users. Mirrors and toiletries cabinets should also be sited lower than for a regular bathroom for the same reasons.
The overall aim in the design of these very special facilities is to create a very usable space that is pleasant and uncluttered to use, with accessibility the prime design feature followed by the ease of use and correct positioning of furniture and accessories.