While many folks are coming to understand the importance of an accessible bathroom, many remain unclear on what is required. If you are trying to outfit an existing bathroom to make it more accessible, then there are a few specific steps that will help you get closer.
If you are building a new bathroom or are remodeling one from scratch, then you have the ability to design the space so that it is completely accessible. We will mention a few key things here, but the full specifications for an ADA approved bathroom can be found at www.ada.gov.
Turnaround Space Allowance
One of the biggest keys to having an accessible bathroom is creating the space to get a wheelchair inside, turn it around, and still have room to close the door. This can be a bit tricky and probably requires more space than what you might anticipate. The key is to design plenty of space between the commode and the door. If you can conquer this challenge, then you should have enough room to turn the chair around by default.
The U.S. ADAAG specification for wheelchair turnaround space is a “minimum space of 60 in (1525 mm) diameter or a 60 in by 60 in (1525 mm by 1525 mm) T-shaped space for a pivoting 180-degree turn of a wheelchair.” This can be a considerable challenge for many homes, but it is a requirement.
Bathroom Grab Bars
Another addition, which will do quite a bit to create a more accessible bathroom space, is the addition of grab bars. Beside the commode and inside the tub area are the ideal places to install these. While it is possible to retro-fit grab bars using drywall anchors to mount them to the wall, it is best if they can be mounted directly into the wall studs.
Keep in mind that people will be using them to pull up their entire body’s weight, and it could cause serious injury if a grab bar was to come off the wall unexpectedly. So you need to ensure you attach the bars to wall studs and make sure the hardware will withstand the loads. Even in older homes where an entire remodel to meet full ADA specs is not possible, the addition of grab bars can be very helpful in making your bathroom more user friendly.
A third addition that will help improve the quality of your accessible bathroom is a wheel chair accessible shower. Traditional shower stalls have a lip on the outside edge that is several inches high. It keeps the water from running out onto the rest of the bathroom floor.
Wheel chair accessible showers have a minimal lip, so that the chair can roll right into the shower stall. The stall is constructed so that the water runs to the back corner. This prevents the water from leaking out into the rest of the bathroom.
There are a number of discussion boards available online where you can garnish more ideas and suggestions for making your bathroom more accessible. Visit the ADA website to get official specifications, but also visit sites like www.adaptiveaccess.com. Here you will find a number of helpful suggestions and links to conversations that will lead you to more ideas.