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» Special Needs Bathrooms

How Did I Do It? > Home & Garden > Special Needs Bathrooms
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At certain times in life, under specific circumstances, designing a handicapped bathroom becomes a necessity. For individuals who are wheel chair bound, for example, daily personal care can become very painful, and asking for help seriously undermines independence and self respect. This is perhaps the most private room of the house, so making it easily accessible and functional supports a person’s goal to remain at least somewhat sovereign and live closer to a normal life.

With all this in mind, there are two things of primary importance in a handicapped bathroom design. The first is safety. The second is the person’s overall comfort and making that space easy to use. Thankfully there have been many innovations in bathroom products in recent years that allow for both safety and functionality. Let’s look at these one at a time.

First is the walk-in bathtub. Walk-ins offer a small entryway where the user need not lift their legs much higher than a few inches. However, this style tub can’t be filled until you’re in it, and has to be emptied below the door line before you get out. Even with that minor disadvantage, it’s safe and effective, and can provide additional therapeutic options like whirlpool jets to ease pain.

Similar in form and concept is a walk-in shower. This allows a person to use their wheelchair to go into the shower provided the chair is designed to be waterproof. If it’s not, some walk-in showers offer a special feature attached to the wall that slides out, and allows the user to move onto an alternative seat. Once on that seat, either an automatic button, or hands/feet moves the seat into the range of the shower. For safety, some type of shower seat is recommended in any walk-in fixture.

In terms of space and configuration – the more room the bathroom offers the safer and more user-friendly it becomes. Sinks need to be low and open-bottomed for wheel chairs, and handrails should be readily available to improve safe movement from one area to another. Floor surfaces should have slip-proofing of some type applied (including in the walk-in shower), doors should be at least 36 inches wide for wheelchair access, toilets need to be elevated, and all the equipment/accessories should be chosen with the individuals needs in mind.

Finally, one nice feature in a handicapped bathroom is one or more emergency levers or buttons. Depending on the scenario, these might be at various heights so that should someone fall, there’s a way to call from help even if they can’t get up on their own.

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