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Universal Design for Bathrooms

Learn the basics about how to make your bathroom safe, comfortable, and accessible for everyone.

Utilize the principles of universal design to ensure your home meets the needs of all people. The worldwide movement applies to everyone, so it's sometimes called "aging in place" or "design for all." No matter the name, the theory remains the same: Your home should be welcoming and accessible to a wide variety of people, regardless of their age, size, or ability.

Slippery surfaces and hard materials make the bathroom one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Outfitting your bathroom with universal design elements can make using the space more convenient for everyone. As you set out to design your bathroom, it's important to carefully weigh the options between certain materials and fixtures to increase saftey and accessibility for all. Here are some easy ways you can incorporate universal design into your bathroom:

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  • Main floor access: Include a bathroom on the main level of your home to ensure guests of all abilities will have easy access.
  • Wider doors: Opt for 36-inch-wide doors instead of the standard 30- or 32-inch-wide models to allow easier access for people in wheelchairs.
  • Lighting: Outfit you bathroom's entry and the shower area with plenty of lighting to ensure users can always see what they're doing.
  • Floor space: Make sure your bathroom has at least 5 feet of open floor space to allow users in wheelchairs to make a 180-degree turn if necessary.
  • Hardware: Outfit your cabinets and drawers with large, D-shape pulls to ensure maximum convenience for people of all abilities.
  • Flooring: Make your floor more slip-resistant by increasing grout lines between tiles. Opt for a medium to large-size area rug rather than a bath mat, which can often get moved around the floor.
  • Toilet: Toilets are often in the 14- to 15-inch range. Choose a 16- to 18-inch model to increase the ease of use for all people.
  • Wall-mount vanity: Leave space under your vanity to ensure people in wheelchairs can easily access the sink.
  • Faucets: Single-lever faucets are manageable for people of all abilities. Touch-on and touchless faucets are also nice alternatives.
  • Storage niches: Opt for between-the-studs storage niches to house items near the vanity and in the shower. The cutouts will prevent people from grabbing on to the shelves for stability.
  • Grab bars: Grab bars in the shower, bath, and near the toilet will offer stability and support.
  • Walk-in shower: Walk-in showers have no lip at the floor level and can be easily accessed by people with limited mobility.
  • Shower bench: Whether you use it as a seat while bathing or for extra storage, a bench can add loads of functionality to your shower.
  • Multiple showerheads: Outfit your shower with showerheads at various levels to increase the effectiveness for all people. Include a handheld showerhead for people who need to sit while bathing.
  • Hooks: Install towel or robe hooks right outside the shower for maximum functionality.

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