Usually I am talking about accessible bathrooms in hotels and other venues but recently I asked our facebook community to share their bathroom modifications and solutions so I could compile it into a blog. After all, the most important bathroom access is the one you use every day.
I received a huge variety of bathroom modification ideas, from simple changes which families could “make do” with in the short term, to major renovations for someone with high support needs. I love the fact that people are building bathrooms that are not clinical and merely functional. I’ve seen stylish tiles and inclusions for children that make the bathroom fun and inviting. We have a clever and generous bunch of people who follow us on facebook and without them this blog would not have been possible.
I suggest anyone undertaking a bathroom modification seeks input from their Occupational Therapist to ensure that the bathroom is safe, functional and takes into consideration future needs. I think it would be helpful to go into the process with a few ideas and I hope this blog will help with people’s research and demonstrate that an accessible bathroom does not need to be boring.
I will start with our bathroom (pictured above) which was part of our knock down rebuild project. We had the opportunity to change the bathroom that was on the plans for the project home we chose so we were able to include the features we needed for the future. I wanted a huge bathroom which we got. I knew that BJ would need at least one to two people assisting him in the bathroom and this bathroom was also the main family bathroom so I was determined it should have a bath. I also wanted to have a shower with a shower door on it so we didn’t end up with water all over the bathroom if he showered. We managed this by getting an over sized shower with wide opening door. It turns out BJ likes baths better than showers but as he gets taller I can see that in the future we will have to resort to showers.
Thanks to Jodie for sharing her daughter’s bathroom which was the cause of much envy from our facebook friends. Jodie says, “best feature of mine is not having to kneel on the ground while bathing my daughter! Con is that I need a ladder if I want to use the bath myself! We had the luxury of building from scratch so incorporated my daughter’s bedroom and bathroom all in one with a ceiling hoist track across the length of the whole room. It is all one open room because of the ceiling hoist track, but she is the only one to use this bathroom, it’s like her ensuite I guess.” Jodie also pointed out that their shower area was designed with a “nice wide shower to allow 1 or 2 carers in there with her. We use a shower commode in here so plenty of turning circle room for the commode. Vanity basin high enough to wheel a wheelchair underneath, and plenty of floor space to allow for wheelchair turning circles.”
Amanda shares her bathroom solution for her son and comments, “I had our main floor half bathroom converted into a full handicap accessible bathroom for my son. There wasn’t a shower there before so when we had the shower added we had it to where he could use the fixed shower head, the removal one, or both. We also have a push button on the removal head that allow you to shut the water off from the hose head. It has worked great when showering my son.”
Daniel shares his son’s modified bathroom and adds, “We were lucky enough be able to build our house around our son. He has an ensuite in his bedroom.
Overhead rails lead from his bed to the shower and toilet.” Daniel also added that the bathroom was “originally open – but we put it on to add some privacy – mainly due to the door to the room looked straight through to the shower. Just need some strong points at the base of the door to keep it open.”
Thanks to Leah for sharing her modified bathroom and for giving me a giggle. When I asked Leah if there were any features she particularly likes about her bathroom her reply was, ” It’s very stylish!”. Yes, it is!
Heather says- “The bathroom is made off my daughters bedroom. We took out the closet to make space and it enables her to drive all the way through so she doesn’t have to turn around in her wheelchair.” I noticed the toilet is on a platform and asked Heather the reasoning for that and she replied, “My daughter has an electric wheelchair and we could not find a potty that was exactly the right height. She can almost do an independent transfer if it is level. So we decided to do this to make it level for her.”
Jodie shares her bathroom above. The toilet rail and footplate system is called a Throne and Jodie advises the footplate makes a big difference.
Jody’s has a fabulous record of their family’s bathroom renovation which really shows the scale of it in a facebook album which you can see here. Jody also shares her “advice: A squeegee is essential for an open shower.”
Angela has shared her family’s bathroom along with some points which are worth considering as your child grows if their are siblings to consider. Angela says, “ours is adequate but not great. It was designed when our daughter was 3 so it was difficult to predict her future needs. (She is now 13). It is also shared with her 2 siblings but they tend to use ours because they don’t like water all over the floor. I like the idea of the ensuite with ceiling hoist link to the bedroom & room for a height adjustable bath. Especially in Winter it would be lovely for her to lie in a bath & warm up those always cold tootsies! So I would like to convert our ensuite / wardrobe for her & put a room upstairs for us. Meanwhile we make do….”
Jenny likes her daughter’s bathroom’s and says, “we had our spa bath taken out as it was too hard to get her in but used extra space to give her a beautiful bathroom.” Jenny says the best features are the bathroom “being all level….plenty of space to get her showered and dressed….whole bathroom is waterproof so if she decides to turn shower head wrong way it’s not a problem….Able to fit cd player and all her girly stuff without being crowded. Toilet is separate which is good as don’t have anyone wanting toilet while bathroom in use…hand rail to hold on in shower works well for her to hold while washing back area… Getting dressed Emily holds towel rails which works for her.”
Thanks to Maria for sharing their family’s bathroom solution for their little pirate. Maria says, “Tom’s ensuite wet room is tiny – we have a Rifton Bluewave over the loo and for use as a showerchair, a small sink with paddle taps and a wide shower area with wetroom flooring. Hoist takes us from bed to bathroom but not quite into the shower so we transfer into the chair for that bit. Tom is 4 so lives pirates!”
Melissa-Jane shares her daughter’s bathroom and says, “Fully accessible ensuite for our 19year old daughter with CP. Plenty of room for wheelchair and K Walker”
Janine shared her son’s bathroom and says “what I love about our bathroom is the height adjustable sink and shower chair and the kids toilet. Our son is only 6 so this bathroom can grow with him.” I love the idea of having a bathroom that can grow with your child.
Lee points out the difficulties they are having with their bathroom and the growing needs of their children as they get older and heavier. Lee says, “ours is really tiny & we are having issues getting our children from our living room to bathroom,we have no room for a change table & we can’t get ours up our hall.”
Lori shares her bathroom, “we took out the tub and vanity cabinet to turn the entire bathroom into a shower.”
Anne found that relocating some items was enough to give her family a roll-in shower. Anne says, “washing and drying machines were moved to make room for a roll-in shower.”
Purabi shares, “We had my daughters bathroom done recently and switched from a bath to a shower which is working really well for us.”
Lorna shares the joy of one of her new bathroom’s features, “this is our shower/change station for my daughter. We are still completing the bathroom, we used this tonight to shower and the complete process took half the time and we only used 1 towel!” Lorna explains how the shower/change station works, “it has slots in the table that the water runs through. There is a hose connection under the table, all of the water drains through it and you can direct the end of the hose to a drain outlet so you don’t get floor or yourself wet.”
Tina shared a photo of her bathroom.
Sharee sent me some photos of her bathroom and says, ” here is our bathroom. It was two rooms ie separate bath and toilet but we decided to combine during the reno to give us more room. I would like more in shower shelves for lotions and potions. We got a bidet toilet seat to help with cleaning after toileting. Not perfect but works OK and I’d recommend.”
Christine is still modifying her bathroom but has shared her shower area which looks spectacularly large. Christine says, “This is the shower. We had a soaker tub we took out” The bathroom is also being designed with “my parents in mind who eventually will be moving in as they age and can no longer live on their own. So every bar is a grab bar the corner bars I the shower shelf, the had towel bar and even the toilet paper holder.”
I asked an Occupational Therapist for her tips and she pointed me in the direction of some great resources which could be used as an initial planning tool and guide.
If you live in Australia you may also wish to phone or visit an access consultant at an Independent Living Centre in your state.
Here are a few more tips that were raised on the original facebook post and some we have found in our travels (please note these are just opinions and independent advice is recommended) –
Take into consideration the long term needs of your child. Even if they can be lifted into a bath at the age of 6 this will become increasingly difficult over time. If you are designing your bathroom when a child is younger, either use height adjustable features (as seen in Janine’s bathroom above) or consider a step and rail rather than lowered sinks etc at child height. Children grow so fast.
We felt quite passionately that our bathroom had to function as a family bathroom and therefore we wanted a bath in there for others to use. We did have to fight for this when getting assistance from home modifications.
Consider the resale value of your home and include a toilet even if your child does not use it.
Build in storage. For people using continence aids and other medical equipment it is valuable to good storage in your bathroom.
Include taps that have a lever rather than taps which require turning.
Consider the type of floor tile and the coating to avoid slips.
One of our best purchases has been non-slip matting from Clark’s Rubber (you can see it in the photo at the top, hanging in our shower). We put that down when the floor is wet and it makes for more stable footing when transferring BJ.
Consider how many people will be required to help in a bathroom and allow room for wheelchair transfers and the extra person/people.
I can see that recessed tiled shelves seem to be more popular than a stand alone attached shelves and I think this is safer.
All towel rails should be weight bearing in case they are used to stabilise or hold on to.
Our bath has a tiled area beside the actual tub which can allow BJ to sit down and swing his legs into the bath if necessary.
Ensure that trades people working on your modification are familiar with the requirements of an accessible bathroom. For example, if you do not have a shower curtain or door you need to have power points away from potential water spray.
Lastly, I suggest you start planning long before a modified bathroom is essential, particularly if you are applying for funding as it can take a long time.
I hope this blog has proved useful or thought provoking. If you have any other tips to offer please leave them in comments below. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this blog.
We have two other blogs which have been the result of families sharing their tips. Car modification and purchasing a wheelchair accessible car/van is another area which we are often asked about and we did a blog about it last year which you can read here. Our very clever community also shared their general parent solutions in a blog which you can read here.
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