The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) contains guidelines for ensuring that public facilities are built to accommodate the physically challenged. It can be trying for aged and disabled people when doorways are too small to allow a wheelchair through, or when buildings have no access ramps. Even at home, suitable provisions should be made to enable people using wheelchairs to get around comfortably. People using a wheelchair or a walker will find a regular bathroom difficult to use. There are many things you would need to alter, like switching to ADA shower pans, widening the bathroom doors, getting non-skid flooring, installing grab bars, and so on.
Let’s take a close look at the modifications that should be made to bathrooms in commercial, residential and assisted-living environments to make them more accessible for the disabled.
You might have to make structural changes to the doorway of your bathroom to allow anyone using a wheelchair or walker to pass through comfortably. Depending on the measurements of the wheelchair, you will need to widen the doorway and replace the old door with a new one. Ideally, the doorway should be 32 inches wide. When you get the doors fixed, make sure that they swing out and not in. Alternatively, you can use a pocket door. A pocket door is a sliding door which moves along its length and slips into a compartment built into the adjacent wall. Install lever handles instead of latches and use a door lock that can be opened from the outside.
The threshold of the doorway should be even with the adjoining floor. There should be no parts jutting out or causing a sudden dip in the floor level. Account for enough floor area so that a wheelchair can do a 360 degree turn without bumping into any fixtures. Use non-skid tiles or other flooring material with skid-proof surfaces. Install a floor drain to allow easy cleaning and to keep the floor free from clogging.
Bathtub, showers and toilets
You should invest in walk-in tubs and ADA shower pans for the bathroom. Walk in tubs are built with swing doors that shut tight once you’re inside. It’s a good idea to place the bathtub faucets at the tub’s entry point instead of putting it at the far end. Consider replacing your old toilet with a new one, having an elongated bowl at a height of 17 to 19. You can use impact-resistant tubs and shower enclosures to prevent injuries due to falls. Place a seat inside the shower area or at the entry of the tub for convenience.
When you install your bathroom sink, make sure that it has enough knee room underneath it. If you require a vanity cabinet, don’t place it below the sink. Build shelves and trays at reachable heights. Install a single-handle or lever faucet that can be used without exerting too much strength. ‘L’ shaped grab bars offer convenient support when placed near bathtubs or the toilet area.
Use ADA shower pans, walk in bathtubs, and barrier free showers and bases to ensure that your disabled or elderly family member does not suffer any discomfort while using the bathroom.