How to design a wheelchair accessible bathroom

Traditionally, wheelchair accessible bathrooms are better known for safety – obviously essential – than for their luxury spa aesthetic. And designing a bathroom that’s inclusive and suitable for wheelchair users is not easy. The many necessary and functional requirements such as grab rails and shower seats means they often look practical at most.

However, with some careful planning plus the many new wheelchair-friendly solutions now available on the market, creating a design that’s practical, workable but also stylish is increasingly possible.

We chat to Ed Warner, founder and CEO of Fine & Able, to discover how the industry has changed and is now offering new opportunities to create stylish inclusive designs.

“There has been significant change in the last 10 years,” says Ed.” When we set out, there were very limited options on the market. As manufacturers have better understood the market and the opportunity out there, they are starting to design better products for our market. One in five of us in the UK has a disability. It is an absolutely enormous market and people don’t want a product that looks and feels like it should be better suited for a hospital than a home.”

You can hear more from Ed on creating an inclusive bathroom in the podcast below. But first, let’s explore the elements you need in order to make your bathroom wheelchair accessible…

How to design a wheelchair accessible bathroom

Working with a bathroom designer, who can help you achieve a beautiful but also functional space, is an important starting point.

Start designing the accessible bathroom like any other, but make it totally personal to you so consider including elements such as wall-mounted basins at a height where a chair can slide easily underneath or a practical wetroom with an easily accessible bench. “An accessible bathroom can be fully customisable with as much or as little as you need.” says Ruth Foster, interior designer at Victoria Plum.

“Trying to strike a balance between functionality and style is key to any bathroom design,” she continues. “But, even more so when buying a bathroom for someone with a disability or an elderly relative who is living independently. Day-to-day independent living can be hugely impacted by the addition of items such as walk-in baths, grab rails and bath and shower seats.”

While there are bigger aspects to consider when designing a fully wheelchair accessible bathroom, you also need to think of the small details. “Consider lowering your shelving so that accessories can be reached more easily and angle your mirrors lower, too. A pivot mirror is great for shared spaces as it can be tilted to the perfect angle as required,” suggests Ruth.

“Technology in the bathroom is advancing all the time and there are a few simple smart features you can introduce to help with using it independently. A smart wall-hung toilet will create more space underfoot and is really practical for those with a visual impairment. This toilet uses a smartphone app for simple operation and personalised user settings. An automatic motion sensor which opens and closes the seat is also a great feature.”

Modern inclusive bathroom design
Inclusive design by Victoria Plum.

Grab rails

And grab rails, 100% needed in an inclusive bathroom, now come in a variety of styles and finishes, so you can match this must-have to the overall look of your bathroom design. Getting the position of the rail right is vital, so chat to your designer about your needs and figure out where it’s best installed in order to hold your body weight.

Blue and white wheelchair accessible bathroom
Wheelchair accessible bathroom by Victoria Plum.
Accessible grab rails
Axess grab rails, £225.49; Corner rail, £499.28; Hand shower sliding rail, £263; Bath stool, £289, and IXMO shower set, £1500, all from Keuco.

Wetrooms and shower seats

As multi-generational living becomes more commonplace there’s a need for bathrooms to become more inclusive, particularly the design of shower products. “There is increasingly a need to cater for multi-generational families within the bathroom industry,” says James Sketch, country manager at Keuco UK.

“This has led to a trend towards generously-sized showering areas. With easily accessible trays that are flush with the floor, providing both an enjoyable experience and ensuring there is adequate space to install seating in the shower if needed,” he says.

And wetrooms have also exploded in popularity as they are functional, beautiful and a very inclusive design feature. There are many ways to make a multi-generational bathroom safe for all users. And, we have a whole guide on how to do just thatclick here.

The built-in shower seat is a simple and sturdy solution to an everyday problem. Plus it can be tiled in the same slab as the shower for a cohesive look. Alternatively, why not choose a different material for a statement feature?

Large wetroom area with shower seat
Arabescato verde oro marble shower bench, price on application, Varisco Stone.

Enjoyed this post? Click here for wheelchair accessible kitchen ideas and expert advice

Featured image: Day True bathroom design from £15,000.

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