Disabled Bathrooms: a Guide to What’s Available

The bathroom is one of the key rooms in any house. We all need to be able to use the bathroom to ensure our personal hygiene is good but that can be easier said than done for people with disabilities.

For people with mobility difficulties using the bathroom can be a minefield. Most bathrooms are upstairs but for many people, climbing the stairs is difficult if not impossible. Getting in and out of the bath can be a physical test for the best of us; it can be a real struggle for less mobile people. Most of us don’t think twice about stepping in to a raised shower cubicle and standing upright for the duration of our shower but for some people, particularly those in wheelchairs, it’s a step too far. Simply going to the toilet or using a washbasin can be a daily struggle for the less mobile.

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The good news is that there are many companies specialising in accessible bathroom designs and fittings, all aimed at making life easier for people with disabilities. Whether it’s a step-in bath or a reduced-height wash basin, there are solutions available for disabled bathrooms.

Step-in baths

Getting in and out of a standard bath is probably one of the most difficult of the bathroom manoeuvres, even for the most mobile of people. If you’re elderly or have limited use of your legs, it can be impossible.

There are a number of bath designs to deal with this problem, enabling people to walk in to the bath through a door at the side or the end of the tub which then closes and seals the bath so it can be filled with water. These baths can be either the standard long shape or shorter with a seat, ideal for people who find it difficult to recline in the bath. Some baths even have a motorised seat which raises and lowers itself, enabling the bather to get in to the bath easily and then immerse him or herself in the water. Other specialist baths available can cater for a large weight capacity or are designed to enable a carer to assist the bather.

Step-in showers and wet rooms

For people who are unsteady on their feet or who need the help of a wheelchair there are a variety of shower designs suitable for disabled bathrooms. Some have lowered shower trays eliminating the high step into the shower. These will often come with hand rails to allow the bather to steady themselves.

For people who use a wheelchair the shower area of the bathroom can be turned into a wet room. In other words, the whole floor area including the shower cubicle is covered with non-slip tiles so the floor is smooth into the shower. This means a wheelchair can be wheeled in to the shower and the bather transferred easily into the shower cubicle. Wet room showers should be professionally installed to ensure the floor is totally sealed and doesn’t leak.

Most showers for disabled bathrooms will come with a seat enabling the bather to take the shower sitting down. The seat will usually fold back against the wall so that other family members can shower standing up if they prefer.

Specialist toilets

We all need to use the toilet but many people with disabilities struggle to use a standard toilet. Specialist toilets for disabled bathrooms can be designed with a variety of options to make life easier.

As well as height adjustable toilets so that wheelchair users can transfer themselves easily from the chair to the toilet seat and to help people with mobility problems from having to stoop too low, toilets can be designed with automatic bidets and posterior and interior wash systems. There are even remote controlled toilets available.

Specialist wash basins

Try accessing a standard wash basin in a wheelchair. The height isn’t right and there’s no room for the front of the wheelchair underneath the basin so the wheelchair user can’t get close enough.

Specialist wash basins aim to address those problems by having an adjustable height and ensuring the basin is designed to allow room for wheelchair access. Many wash basins can come with a variety of functions to help people with mobility difficulties get full use of the facility.

Where can I get advice on disabled bathrooms?

There are a number of specialist bathroom companies offering fittings for disabled bathrooms and tailor-made solutions if necessary. A search online with bring up a list of specialist companies with websites offering information on their products. Many of these companies will have brochures you can download or ask to be sent to you.

Organisations and charities such as the Disabled Living Foundation and Age UK have information on their websites about disabled bathrooms and have a variety of fact sheets available.

Can I get any financial help?

Adapting a bathroom to meet the needs of a person with disabilities can be costly. You may be eligible for grants, particularly if you need to move your bathroom downstairs to make it accessible. The UK Government website has information about the Disabled Facilities Grant and the charities mentioned above should also be able to help you find out more. The grants are usually allocated by your local council.

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