Thinking and planning are key when designing and building a wheelchair accessible bathroom. Taking into account the requirements of the person for whom the bathroom is being built is the first step. By being specific, you are taking into account all challenges the user will encounter. An accessible bathroom has to be thought out as to what the person's limitations and mobility may be in the future also. Always err on the side of caution when planning. Extra space and extra safety devices will not go to waste. Accessible bathroom are for those in wheelchairs, use walkers, canes and have limited sight. Some of these issues may not be so insurmountable right now, but in the future they can worsen. This also goes for those who are aging. With age, comes special considerations and limitations. The Americans with Disabilities Act, known as ADA lays out guidelines and approves companies and wheelchairs for products they stand behind.
Wheelchair Accessible Doorways
The doors to the bathroom must be a minimum of 32 inches wide. Increase the width of the door if the person uses a wide wheelchair. Plan for a minimum of 60 inches in front of a door that swings in to allow for mobility once inside the bathroom. A swinging door may not be the best access to the bathroom, a hidden door or pocket door, removes an obstacle from the
room and makes entry and exit easier.
Adequate Floor Space
The floor space inside the bathroom has to be at least 60 inches in all directions so a wheelchair can make a complete turn without banging into anything. This greatly helps those in chairs and those who assist and aid with daily activities and functions. A tight squeeze is never comfortable.
Use large rocker wall switches rather than small toggle switches so it will be easier to turn the light on and off. Always provide adequate lighting. Dim lighting may provide ambiance to a room, but the bathroom is not a place to set the mood. Low lighting makes the bathroom a less safe place.
Bathroom Storage, Vanities and Cabinets
Mount storage space and cabinetry at eye level. Have the person come into the bathroom and mark the walls for height. This is a personal and comfort-based amenity. There are prescribed guidelines, but rely more on the persons height requirements. Open shelving is much easier to access than closed cabinets. If you choose to use closed cabinets install large drawer pulls. If you choose open shelving, secure the shelves tightly in place and to the wall.
Avoid any non-mounted items in the room and keep all mounted items around the perimeter of the room up against the walls. This is especially important for those with limited vision.
Install grab bars next to toilets and showers. Mount the grab bars into the wall studs so they remain strong and dependable. Buy and use only ADA-approved grab bars. A towel rack is not a grab bar and should never be substituted as such, so do not install towel racks in a space where holding on is necessary, safe and important.
Specialty Products of Accessibility
Install specialty sinks, showers, toilets and faucets. Use faucets with levers rather that knob-like handles.
Install taller ADA-approved toilets. ADA-approved toilets stand higher than standard toilet and make necessary, daily functions much easier and much more comfortable.