We all have a time in our lives when we need, for whatever reason, a little extra help and care and perhaps a few more facilities to assist us in the bathroom. This extra help may be for a short time or perhaps a little longer.
Bathing is an integral part of our lives and retaining our dignity and independence in the bathroom is paramount.
There are many issues to consider when creating a bathroom for someone at home who requires additional help, be they very young, someone with a disability, or the elderly and infirm.
With increasing numbers of people having a disability, bathroom manufacturers are increasingly aware of the need for inclusive design products.
Inclusive design is about ensuring that products work for all ages and abilities without sacrificing design flair and style.
With careful planning and the right product there is no reason why your new bathroom cannot meet your every aspiration.
As you consider the design of your new bathroom, consider the needs of other family members and visitors. Also consider your bathroom’s physical structure since some elements such as doors, windows and radiators cannot be changed easily. Use the help of a professional to put your ideas into practice.
Wheelchair users may find the use of a wet room, low level entry threshold shower tray or a ramped entry to a conventional step-in shower more beneficial. Factors such as accessibility, space and budget will have strong influences on the solution adopted for a installation.
The choice of bathroom product available will encompass every conceivable design element from the smallest to the most opulent of bathrooms. With careful planning and the right product there is no reason why your new bathroom cannot meet your every aspiration.
Choosing the right product is important to ensure your needs and those of your friends and family are met. The right product will be dependent on several factors, including the extent of ability, the location of bathroom and the requirements of other users.
Things to consider
Bathroom or cloakroom doors
Ensure that bathroom or cloakroom doors are wide enough to take a wheelchair. Also check that the door motion will not impede the movement of a wheelchair or walking frame.
Flooring and shower tray surfaces
Ensure slip resistant surfaces are used to minimise the risk of slips and trips.
Additional support to assist movement in the bathroom can be achieved using grab rails. These are available in various finishes and colours to co-ordinate with your bathroom design. For the visually impaired rails should be installed with high contrast colours to make them stand out from the surrounding wall finishes and furniture. Grab rails need to be firmly fixed and load bearing.
When installing radiators think about giving additional space around them to allow for movement and to decrease the risk of touching the hot surface. Better still think about installing low surface temperature radiators or high-level heating.
Low level bath
Consider installing a bath with low sides to help access. Also consider using a bath hoist or transfer chair with motorised vertical movements to assist in entry into the water. Walk in baths, with doors allow for much each access too for those less confident climbing over the bath rim.
Shower enclosure and tray
Think about installing a shower enclosure which has been specially designed to suit all the users of the bathroom. Half-height shower screens or freestanding enclosures, 360° hinges or combinations of fixed, hinged and sliding panels integrate best into the existing bathroom layout. A low-level shower tray or a completely level access tray, a ‘wet zone’ or a full ‘wet room’ should be considered.
Think about positioning shelving and storage units at heights which are easily accessible. But take care not to block access to the washbasin for someone in a wheelchair.
Tap and showers
Consider replacing conventional taps and shower controls with lever operated controls for easy operation. Install a thermostatic control to decrease the risk of scalding or consider a shower which can be operated remotely. For the visually impaired, use shower controls that are operated by touch buttons with tactile coding or illuminated controls for easy identification.
Some are designed with a central ceramic support – the pedestal – which provides a convenient cover to the trap and pipework below. Pedestals can prevent impact from wheelchairs and hide pipework from view. Some washbasins are ‘wall hung’ and need to central pedestal support and these make access very easy indeed.
Think about installing a ‘wall hung WC’ for improved access and manoeuvrability and ease of cleaning.
Some specialist seats are designed to offer increased height. Others offer additional thigh support.
Bear in mind that some people with disabilities need to use the fixtures in a bathroom to lean against or to hold themselves upright. The washbasin, WC and bath should therefore be very firmly fixed against load bearing walls. Speak to your installer and product manufacturer for more advice.
Always ensure that there is space to move around. You should consider the space required for the movement of a wheel chair or a for a person using crutches or a walking stick.