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Redesign a Tiny Bathroom to make it a Handicap Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom
Special Living Magazine
Making a bathroom safe and handicap wheelchair accessible is an important first step when beginning an accessible home modification.
Recently, Accessible Design & Consulting redesigned a very small bathroom to make it a completely handicap wheelchair accessible bathroom. The client for this project was a 73-year old male stroke victim and above-the-knee amputee who uses a wheelchair.
This project posed numerous challenges. The doorway was too narrow to allow a wheelchair through, it had a very small stand-up style shower making it unusable, the sink vanity would not accommodate a wheelchair, the toilet was too low and there was not enough room to turn the wheelchair around to exit the bathroom.
Before the redesign
If a bathroom is small to begin with, a little creative redesign can make it not only more accessible, but safer and more practical for everybody.
For this job we used some of the existing plumbing instead of starting from scratch. This saved some time and money which allowed us to add other elements.
Our starting point was the doorway. Because the toilet was so close to the doorway, it didn't offer the space needed to widen it enough for the wheelchair to pass through. We removed the sink and reversed the plumbing for use with the toilet. By moving the toilet to this new position, it provided the space to create a bigger doorway opening. We then replaced the doorway and adjacent wall with a pocket door making one large doorway opening. In fact, the entire wall became a sliding door which made the bathroom larger, almost like an extension of the bedroom.
After - with a raised toilet and stand-up shower to accommodate a wheelchair user
We added a "toilevator" below the toilet which raised it 3.5 inches and made it level with the wheelchair for easy sideways transfers. It also made it easier for people not in a wheelchair to get on and off the toilet.
Although moving the toilet created much more room to move in and out of the bathroom, it eliminated a sidewall to attach a grab bar. For this situation, we used a fold-down grab bar which was attached to the wall behind the toilet.
It's important to note that all grab bars require reinforced backing for support. Because we had already removed the shower, the wall was exposed down to the bare studs making the process easier and more cost efficient.
When in the horizontal position, the fold-down grab bar offered support for use with the toilet AND for use with the shower serving a dual purpose. It could also be moved to the "up" position allowing more space to roll in and out of the shower.
Looking into the bedroom
The next challenge was to replace the unusable shower. Because of the small space, we opted for a roll-in two-wall shower. The new shower is made of fiberglass and the entire unit has reinforced backing behind both walls. This is a great feature because it allows grab bars to be added at a later time to any position on either wall because the necessary reinforcement is already in place.
Fiberglass showers do not have any grout which inhibits mold and makes them much easier to clean. Blue trim was used in the tile to match the color of the bathroom.
The two-wall shower uses weighted shower curtains and a collapsible water retainer along the threshold of the floor to keep water in the shower and the bathroom floors dry. When the wheelchair rolls over the water retainer, it collapses down and then pops back up into place.
Collapsible water retainers and weighted shower curtains are being used today because of their functionality and ease of installation.
Pocket door makes a large opening
and creates a wall when closed
To complete the shower installation, grab bars were added, along with a hand-held shower hose and an anti-scald device. The hand-held shower hose is easy to reach from the roll-in wheelchair and offers a 5-position shower spray.
Next, we replaced the previous vanity sink with a wall hung sink for better use with a wheelchair and moved it next to the shower. Wall hung sinks are a great replacement for vanities or even pedestal sinks because they allow the user to roll up and under the sink and get closer to the basin.
The new sink also replaced the older knobs with a Gooseneck Faucet and Winged Handles. This is a great alternative to the knobs because the handles could be pushed or pulled instead of turning, making them easier to use. The handles can be operated with the palm of the hand and the goose neck spout added a higher clearance than the previous spout for cleaning urine bottles.
An adjustable tilting mirror rounded out the sink area. This allows the person to use the mirror from a seated position and tilts back upright when needed by a person standing.
The bathroom floor was replaced with new tile and push switches for the lights replaced the old flip switches for added convenience.
Links to Products Discussed in This Article
For more information about this bathroom modification and how to make your own bathroom handicap and wheelchair accessible contact:
Adam Fine at Accessible Design & Consulting
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