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Accessible Bathrooms

Part 1


In the past bathrooms were planned and designed with the comfort of the occupants in mind. They were large rooms, were one could relax and ponder the world around us. In the last century, bathroom design became the art of how small can you make the room and still fit in the necessary fixtures, as shown in Figure 1.

Keys to the successful design and construction of an accessible bathroom:

small bathroom
Figure 1 - Small bathroom

Why? Because bathrooms, on a per square foot basis, are one of the most expensive rooms in the home to build and outfit. In order to keep housing prices down, houses in general, were constructed with minimal floor space and the spacious bathroom of yesteryear was reduced to the size of a closet.

Using universal design criteria, bathrooms should be planned for accessibility of all family members and guests who may use it throughout the homeowner’s lifetime.

accessible bathroom
Figure 2 - Accessible bathroom

The necessity of considering accessibility within universal design has caused architects and decorators to revisit the overall design of bathrooms. New bathroom plans incorporate accessibility functionality in space and fixtures such as bathtubs, showers, toilets, vanities, sinks, faucets, flooring and lighting. This has had the effect of making bathrooms physically larger, brighter and much more comfortable for everyone, as shown in Figure 2.

More and more homes are having bathrooms designed to provide an ambience of relaxation, peace and harmony. Whirlpool tubs allow one to lie back and relax, eliminating the day’s stress. Steam showers and other features create a room that one wants to be in rather than a room that one wants to leave as quickly as possible.

The use of color and new materials on floors and walls provides an enhancement to the bathroom.

Coupled with all of this, is our aging population, and a renewed desire to be able to age in place - to be able to stay in our homes and the areas that we have become accustomed to. Knowing that we will not have to move provides us with a level of comfort, removing a great deal of stress from our future planning.

Hence, bathrooms are being designed with much more flexibility that allows for the necessary changes that occur as our families grow and we get older.

To plan your bathroom remodel or the bathrooms in a new home, these are the items that you should consider:

  • How many bathrooms do you have or are you planning on having?
  • How many individuals in the family share or will have to share a bathroom?
  • Do you have a separate bathroom for guests?
  • Does anyone in your family require very convenient and immediate access to a bathroom?
  • Does the family prefer to bathe or use a shower?
  • Does anyone in the family have a disability creating an influence on bathroom usage?
  • Does anyone in the family require assistance when bathing?
  • Are there concerns for the overall safety of family members or guests when they use the bathroom?

Bathroom Design Considerations:

A bathroom that has been planned and designed following the principles of universal design will provide a relaxing and secure area for you, your family and guests.

A great deal of thought should go into the planning and design of each bathroom, with special emphasis on the following points, based on your answers to the questions previously presented:

  • The size, shape, access and location of the bathroom or bathrooms within the home.
  • Positioning of the key bathroom fixtures (wash basin, toilet, bathtub and/or shower) within the bathroom.
  • Style of bathtub and/or shower.
  • Consideration of features for safety, slip-resistant flooring, grab bars and support rails.
  • Ventilation.
  • Positioning and styles of light switches, ventilation timers and switches and receptacles.
  • Storage requirements.
  • Lighting styles and types of bulbs and lamps. Taking into consideration skylights and windows.
  • Maneuverability.