In the case that you are moving your aging parents into your home or have experienced an accident that requires you to use a wheelchair or walker temporarily, you might find yourself needing to adapt your bathroom for handicap accessibility. Statistically, the bathroom can be one of the most dangerous places in the home. This makes it all the more important to redesign it for easier accessibility and safety.
Unless you are planning to move, it will be up to you to make your home handicap accessible. For people who haven’t had to consider handicap accessibility, they may be unsure where to start. Here are a few important things to consider when making your bathroom handicap accessible:
Bath and shower
Getting in and out of the bathtub or shower is one of the most dangerous activities for handicapped persons. Depending on budget, you may consider turning the bathroom into a wet room where there is just a drain in the floor and no defined shower or tub. If that is not a possibility, then you will want to get a curbless shower or bathtub with a door so you can walk into it rather than step into it.
It is also a good idea to update the showerhead and get a hand-held shower. This allows people with a handicap to sit in the bathtub or shower rather than move and turn around while bathing – which can increase their slip and fall risk.
Replacing the standard 17-inch toilet with a toilet that sits higher off the ground (typically around 19 inches) can make using the restroom much easier for anyone with a disability. Minimizing the distance to the toilet will also promote stability.
Unlike the toilet, standard sinks are sometimes too high for people in wheelchairs. If your sink has cabinets underneath, then it might also be impossible for someone in a wheelchair to get close enough to wash their hands. You may need to lower the sink and use a pedestal style or a wall-mounted sink to make it safer and easier to use. Depending on the handicap, you may also want to consider sensor faucets and/or a faucet with temperature controls to prevent scalding.
Some people with a handicap will grab a towel rack for additional support when getting out of the shower or sitting on the toilet. However, towel racks are not designed to support the full weight of a human body and can easily pull out from the wall. This can pose a dangerous fall risk. Luckily, installing grab bars is actually a fairly easy DIY project that you can do over the weekend. Ideally, you should place one near the shower and one on either side of the toilet.
The standard doorway does not easily accommodate a wheelchair or walker. Chances are, you will need to widen the bathroom doorway. How much work this entails will depend on your current doorframe and may require moving the light switch. If you are not super handy, consider hiring a professional to do this for you. The average job will take a pair of experienced carpenters a full day to complete.
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