When mobility becomes an issue, homeowners often debate whether they should move to a home with a more accessible bath. But there are several simple updates that can be made to any bath to make it comfortable to use for years to come.
Grab bars near the toilet, tub, and shower make it easier to use existing fixtures. Simply adding grab bars in the proper locations offers stability and support, but doesn't require a major remodel.
If you're concerned that grab bars will detract from your decor, you'll be happy to know several companies produce grab bars that are not only functional but beautiful. Manufacturers such as Jaclo, Rohl, Moen, and Kohler offer grab bars in a variety of finishes and styles.
Seat in Shower
Another inexpensive option to make the bath more accessible is to include a seat in the shower. Small stools or plastic chairs allow the bather to sit while showering and can be removed if needed.
Built-in seats or benches are a great option to consider if you're remodeling or building a new bath. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards recommend placing a built-in bench on the wall opposite the controls. Fold-down seats attached to the wall are a great option for small showers.
To accommodate a standing or seated bather, install a handheld showerhead with at least a 60-inch hose. This allows for flexibility as your needs change and is a great addition to any shower system.
Universal Access Showers
Most showers have a raised or recessed threshold, but such a ledge can cause problems for individuals getting in and out of the shower. Universal access showers have no raised entry, are a great option for people with mobility issues, and still direct water safely down the drain.
Many universal access showers are custom-designed, but there are some shower enclosures -- like this one from Kohler -- that can be easily installed in your home.
Sitting down and swinging your legs over the side of the tub can be a difficult task for stiff joints. A walk-in tub provides a solution for a homeowner who loves a relaxing soak but wants easy access. Walk-in tubs, however, are not widely used in the United States and may be difficult to find. Companies including DCE Bathing Systems, Glamour Baths, and American Walk-In Tubs carry them.
ADA guidelines recommend that toilets be 17-19 inches high, measured to the top of the seat. Many new toilets -- like this one from Toto -- fit these standards, but there are a few ways to adjust the height of your toilet without replacing it.
Thicker toilet seats are the easiest and least expensive option for adding height to the toilet. With a higher toilet seat you can comfortably lower yourself, stand, or transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet.
If you don't like the look of a thick toilet seat, and don't want to replace the entire toilet, you can purchase a platform installed below the toilet that raises it several inches. Great Ideas, Inc., sells both styles of products in its Solution ComfortSeat line.
Single-handle or hands-free faucets make it easier than ever to use the lavatory. A single-handle faucet makes it simple to turn on and adjust the flow of water without tight grasping or twisting of the wrist. Manufacturers such as Delta and Kohler have developed hands-free faucets that use a sensor to detect your hands under the faucet, similar to what you find in public restrooms.
Easy to overlook, light switches can play a major role in creating an accessible bath. First, consider lowering light switches so they would be accessible to an individual in a wheelchair. Second, install switches with a push button or large toggle that doesn't require a pinching motion to turn on and off.
Simple changes can make a big difference for homeowners who wish to stay in their homes for years. Check out this Web site for more information on creating a universally accessible bathroom.
ADA Guidelines -- www.access-board.gov