What You Need to Know About Planning an Accessible Bathroom

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Homes need to adapt to the changing needs of those living in them over time. However, there is a fear that adapting a bathroom to make it more accessible is a costly endeavour. It doesn’t need to be if it’s well planned and carefully thought out.

While tackling an accessible bathroom renovation, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered that you may not even have to worry about when designing a typical bathroom. The changes will largely depend on the needs of the homeowner. The needs of the user will dictate the general design to accommodate each individual’s situation. 

Why Accessibility is So Important

While most people don’t need to think about whether or not their bathrooms are accessible, many do. Accessible toilets, sinks, and showers are integral to people with disabilities. It’s not only a daily necessity, but it also allows for a certain amount of independence that might not have otherwise been possible in the space. While a grab bar or door width may not be something another person would even think important, for some, it’s the difference between being able to maneuver with space, or not.

How to Design an Accessible Bathroom

The first thing to consider is who the bathroom needs to be accessible for. This will determine what types of accessibility features need to be considered or added. For example, are you designing the bathroom for:

  • Wheelchair users
  • Users with mobility impairments
  • Users with balance or grip issues
  • Users with bladder or bowel impairments
  • Etc.

While a wheelchair user may need specific mobility considerations, like a wider doorway or more room to maneuver in the bathroom’s space, a user with balance or grip issues may require a slightly different layout and handle features in completely different areas of the space to help them better navigate.

Before beginning to design the space, ask the user:

  • What bathroom activities require assistance?
  • Are there medical supplies necessary to the user, and where do they need to be placed?
  • Are there activities that a user does independently that could be assisted with grab bars?
  • Does the user prefer a bath or shower?
  • Will the user’s needs change over time?

This will help you discover valuable information, such as the positioning of grab bars or whether a bath or shower is a better design decision.

The Basics of Accessibility

While each individual space will be unique to cater to the user’s specific needs, there are some standards to take into consideration. These include: 

  • Looking into the AUS/NZ 1428 standard that explains the most important considerations and factors
  • Ensuring the entrance has at least a 90 cm width
  • Remember that accessible toilets have special dimensions (70 cm height) and need a side clearance of 90 cm for wheelchair users
  • Considering a bidet toilet. It combines the functionality of both a toilet and a bidet in one unit to help save space

Potential Design Features

Functionality can also be beautiful. Accessible bathrooms don’t have to appear industrial or hospital-like in order to comply with a user’s unique requirements. Simple design features, such as having the shower floor flush with the regular floor (so there is no obstructive lip) is both functional and modern, for example.

Think about other typical bathroom elements as well, and how they can be adjusted for the user:

Mirrors and Sinks

Typically, for those who need wheelchair accessibility, sinks and mirrors will need to be placed a bit lower.

Storage

Make sure storage options take into consideration height or reach restrictions to ensure the users are able to take advantage of storage solutions and can use them safely.

Non-Slip Surfaces

Think about the materials used in places like floors, showers or bathtubs. Find non-slip solutions that can help mitigate slips and falls.

Vanity Handles or Taps

For those that may face grip issues, look for solutions that might assist them with simple tasks like opening doors or turning water on and off.

Even when adjusting details to suit the user, the array of solutions available can be made to feel light and modern, while remaining accessible and safe. 

By understanding your client’s long-term needs and incorporating elements that help them navigate their space with ease, you’re helping the environment adapt to them. If you have questions about how to renovate or create your own accessible bathroom, let’s talk. Speak to the team at Crystal Bathrooms to learn more about installing items that make a bathroom both compliant and accessible.