Accessible bathrooms can be beautiful and necessary. When a person becomes disabled or uses a wheelchair, fitting a bathroom to their needs can be challenging. Imagine sitting in a wheelchair for all of your bathroom needs and you may see exactly how many things must be changed.

Having a non-accessible bathroom can be a matter of life or death. More than 1 in 3 seniors over 65 fall every year and 80% of these are in the bathroom. In addition, after one falls and breaks a hip or a leg, they often must go to rehab after the hospital instead of returning home simply because their bathroom is not accessible. Recovering at home is much preferable to an injured person.

Door Requirements

The first matter of business is the door. It must have an minimum entrance width of 32" and open into the bathroom. The door must have paddle or lever handles in order for a person to be able to use it properly.

Bathroom Size

Accessible shower requirements The size of the bathroom is very important for individuals in wheelchairs. Wheelchairs will need to be maneuvered and turned in the bathroom. There must be an unencumbered 5' turning radius. Ideally a bathroom without a shower should be around 6’-8” by 7'-6”. It is important to ensure that the entire bathroom is obstruction free and has nothing that can fall or has ragged edges to injure a person.

Bathroom Vanity

The vanity area must be attached to the wall or have enough space so that a wheelchair may roll underneath it. The sink must be mounted with at least 29" of clearance room underneath it and the rim must be no higher than 34". Knee clearance must be at least 27" above the floor and at least 8" below the front edge. Toe clearance must be 9" under the entire sink. The sink must have a maximum depth of 17" and a maximum width of 30".Keeping the hands and face clean is very important. Soap, sanitizers, and moisturizers must be placed in a fixed state at 40" above the finished floor and have lever pump handles. The faucet must have paddle handles. The mirror's bottom edge should be mounted at no less than 40" and rise no more than 74" above the floor. It must be operable with one hand.

Accessible Toilet

An accessible toilet needs to have a height of 16 1/2" from the bathroom floor. If it will be used with a wheelchair it must have enough free space on one side of the toilet to be mounted onto from a wheelchair. The toilet paper holder must be placed within easy reach of the user.It is very important to install grab bars with full 1 1⁄2” thick backing behind the drywall for the toilet. Otherwise, the disabled may try to pull themselves up using unstable surfaces such as a window ledge or towel bar. They can slip or pull these holders down and cause more injury from falling. As many disabled people need help moving from the toilet, grab bars provide stability for this action. Grab bars should be mounted between 33" and 36" high and have a diameter between 1 1/4" and 1 1/2". They should be a minimum of 42" long over the toilet and return wall..

Window Requirements

Windows can let in light and liven up a bathroom for the user. If there is a window in the bathroom, it must have enough wall space on one side to allow a person in a wheelchair to move next to the window wall in order to safely operate the window from the wheelchair.

Accessible Shower Requirements

The shower is a particularly important part of the accessible bathroom. The easier showers are, the more likely a clean body is to keep up health and morale. An ideal shower is roll-in, has a stationary or fold-down seat, a single lever shower valve, a hand-held shower wand on a glide bar, an easy to pull shower curtain, numerous grab bars, and an easy-to-reach shelf for soap, shampoo, and other shower supplies. The towel bar should be 24" long and 48" high. Ensure that the water temperature can go no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in order to prevent burning skin that has lost nerve function.

Planning for an Accessible Bathroom

In conclusion these are some quick points that must be part of the planning fro an accessible bathroom that will produce a bathroom that could be accessible to anyone who needs to occupy this space. That, in a nutshell, is a bathroom in direct compliance with “Universal Design”.

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