Following on from my previous post about designing great looking handicap showers, I wanted to look at a few important accessories for handicap showers and bathrooms. Again staying with the theme of trying to make bathrooms for disabled people that look good and don’t scream – “HANDICAP”.
It is possible to adapt a bathroom for someone with mobility issues without ruining the look of the room and making it look like a hospital. As always so much will depend on the level of disability the user suffers from. The handicap accessories needed will depend upon the layout and the elements of the bathroom (shower, bath or tub shower combo for example).
If you have done a good job with the handicap shower design, the need for added accessories will be greatly reduced. For example a wet room designed for a person in a wheelchair, with all the controls at the right height will not need much else. A walk in shower for an elderly person may only need a couple of well placed grab rails to make it safe. Of course some people may require further equipment, but if the initial design and layout is good, most people’s needs can be met quite easily without lots of extra fittings.
Of course handicap shower or bathroom accessories can be very useful when trying to adapt an existing bathroom – avoiding the need for a total bathroom makeover. Here you may need to rely on them more heavily, but by choosing wisely you can still minimize the impact on the overall style and look of the room.
Let’s have a look at some of the most common handicap shower accessories you are likely to need.
Handicap Shower Rails and Grab Bars
These can be some of the worst offenders in the price war. You really need to look around for good deals here, avoiding the specialist suppliers. Sites like Amazon can be great for reasonably priced grab rails in a variety of styles. You should look for rails or bars that can blend in as much as possible with your bathroom – chrome, stainless or plain white work well and can look pretty unobtrusive.
When it comes to fitting these rails or bars there are two main types – suction cup or fixed. Fixed shower grab bars are obviously permanent and the safest option but suction cup rails can be more flexible. Consider using both – have a fixed bar in the shower for example and a suction cup grab bar that can be moved to where it’s needed. When choosing a suction cup model it pays to do a
little research as some are better than others, the Mommy’s Helper range are reliable and get very favorable reviews on Amazon.
You can click on the picture to read more about this range.
When installing the rails and grab bars I always prefer to do it WITH the person who will be using the equipment. Fit them at a height they require – not what some manual recommends, everyone is different. Try not to fit too many in a bathroom and only put them where they are really needed – the user will be the best judge of this.
Handicap Shower Chairs, Seats and Benches
Many people with a disability or with limited mobility will like to use a seat or chair of some sort in the shower. Many of these handicap shower seats are awful looking – straight out of a hospital brochure. There are a couple of ways to address this problem. If the person absolutely needs a permanent seat inside the shower then you may need to buy one of the specialist chairs – in which case look around for one that looks as good as possible.
Think about the shower itself, is it large enough to accommodate a built in shower bench. These can be quite neat and made to look great. A decent builder or tiller may be able to build a small shower bench – from timber, or a tiled finish. Installing a shower bench is best done when the shower is first being installed, but can also be retro fitted. They don’t need to be limited to handicap showers either; they can be a great extra for any larger shower.
Another idea to consider is using a small seat or chair to pop inside the shower before use. If you look around you may find a suitable regular chair or bench that will fit inside the shower cubicle- it doesn’t need to be specifically designed for a shower. Just remember the material needs to be suitable for the wet conditions and make sure it is secure enough to support the person without slipping around.
Try to avoid the really ugly models of handicap shower seats – who is going to enjoy a shower sitting in one of those – show some thought for the user and their dignity, there are alternatives.
Handicap Shower and Bathroom Ramps
For some bathrooms or shower stalls a small ramp may be necessary for good, independent wheelchair access. There are a range of these available to buy but once again – look beyond the specialist handicap stores. Some of the low profile handicap shower pans should only need a tiny ramp to ease access. For shower ramps to be useful to the user, they really do need to be quite low, given the limited space to maneuver in most bathrooms. There are some great looking and quite subtle ramps around, so they need not have an adverse effect on your tasteful design.
When fitting a new handicap shower stall it is worth remembering that you can
level out the flooring in a couple of ways to avoid the need for ramps.
• The whole bathroom floor can be raised slightly to keep everything on the one level within the bathroom – creating a slight incline across the floor from door to shower can remove the need for a ramp.
• The other method – which I prefer and have done many times, is to sink the shower tray into the existing floor. This works well with wooden floors but I have also done this with concrete floors.
Other Specialized Handicap Shower and Bathroom Equipment
Above are probably the most common handicap shower accessories used today but of course there are many more. From bath hoists and non slip mats to bathroom alarm systems. To keep the bathroom looking as good as possible it is best to use as few accessories as is necessary for the individual. In cases where the person needs a lot of room adaptations and handicap equipment, it is obviously important to address their needs over making the room look good – but if we can do both then I think it is worthwhile. Think how much more relaxed someone with a disability will feel in a great looking and functional handicap shower or bathroom. They can and should be made to look as good as possible.