Can you help with ideas for designing a wheelchair-accessible bathroom in a home setting? I am thinking of remodeling a guest bathroom or children’s bathroom and want to avoid an institutional look. Smaller is better.
I am passionate about doing these kinds of jobs, which fall under a new category in the remodeling industry called “Universal Design.” I suggest you divide your planning into two lists: 1) practical requirements for easy accessibility and 2) comfortable and homey decorating. Practical requirements: these are the “must haves.” You need to squeeze as much floor space out of the room as possible. ADA recommends a full 5-foot turning radius for a wheelchair but this is usually not practical in most residential-size bathrooms. So at least switch your vanity to a wall-mount sink, and convert your bathtub into a “curb-less” shower with a shower curtain. You’ll need convenient grab bars, but choose from the new, more decorative models with hidden screws and more elegant designs. They can also double as towel bars. You can also swap the normal hinges on the entry door to offset hinges to create a wider opening, or better yet, install a wider, out-swing door. Change the doorknobs to lever handles for easier use, and eliminate any bumps at the door thresholds. Toilet height is a personal preference, but most wheelchair users like the taller, “comfort height” models. Comfortable and homey: to avoid the institutional look, you can dress the room with accessories. I like fun, accent lighting and wall paper to soften the look. And put the main light on a motion-sensor switch. Most people appreciate an automatic lavatory faucet that turns itself on and off with an electric eye, or the new Delta “Touch2O®” for ease of use. Panasonic also makes a quiet motion sensor vent fan that requires no effort from the user. For more professional help, visit the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and click on “Find a Remodeling Professional” to find a remodeler in your area who has Universal Design Certified Remodeler (UDCR) credentials.