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Ideas and instructions for building a handicapped accessible bathroom

| Source: wasauna.com

walk-in-showerThere is a lot to take into consideration when planning a bathroom for a disable person. Ultimately, there are only two things that really matter:

1) Making the bathroom experience safer

2) Making the bathroom experience easier and more comfortable

While safety is obviously a primary concern, ease of bathing should not be overlooked. Once a person becomes disabled, using a bathroom can become a nightmare; especially if assistance from a nurse or family member is required. As bathing becomes more difficult, it is common to see a person let their personal hygiene go by the wayside as they avoid cleaning themselves and using the bathroom. Inability to bathe without assistance will damage a persons pride and eventually make them avoid using the bathroom.

A proper handicap bathroom design will often allow a disabled individual to bathe without the assistance of another person.

walk-in-shower-2Here are 10 ideas that every handicap bathroom designer should consider before they start building:

1) Walk-in Bathtubs:

Although slightly more difficult to enter/exit than a walk-in shower, a walk-in bathtub with a door is far easier and safer to enter than a conventional bathtub. Instead of having to step over a tub wall that can be as high as several feet, the user just needs to have enough use of his legs to step over a gap that is usually around 4 inches high and enough use of his arms to open/close a very light door. The disadvantage of a tub like this is that you have to wait for the tub to fill up after you bathe, and you typically have to wait for the tub to drain before you exit. Although not as easy to enter as a walk-in shower, showering is more dangerous than bathing, and besides, if you are looking to take a bath the walk-in shower just isn’t the same.

2) Walk-in Shower:

handicap-bathtubIt is possible to build a shower room with a floor on level with the rest of your house. This allows you to ride a wheelchair (preferably a wheelchair designed to be submerged in water) directly into the shower and makes the shower extremely easy to enter/exit on foot. Although not as safe as a bathtub with a door because of the added risk of falling, the walk-in style shower allows for a less timing bathing experience.

3) Wheelchair Maneuverability:

The more space you leave for maneuvering around a bathroom in a wheelchair, the easier and safer it is going to be. You can see that this handicap bathroom not only has tons of wheelchair space, it also has a door-less shower. If you look closely, you can see that the vanity is elevated from the ground. This particular vanity has space under it so that a wheelchair can be rolled up to the sink.

wheelchair-shower4) Seats and grab bars inside your walk-in shower:

This style of walk-in shower is easier than a bath but with the added safety benefit of a seat over a conventional walk-in shower. This bathroom requires less space and would be good for a disabled person who was not wheelchair bound.

5) Sink with Wheelchair Access.

A bathroom vanity with space under it for a wheelchair can make it extremely easy for a handicapped person to wash their hands and brush their teeth. An ideal sink height for a wheelchair bound person is 30″, and a 34″ height should not be exceeded. For a very tall person who is not wheelchair bound but has trouble bending, a 40″ sink height is recommended.

6) Slip-proof Flooring:

walk-in-showerSlip-proof flooring is available for both the bathtub, shower, and bathroom floor. Elderly and disabled individuals are far more likely to slip in a bathroom, especially if the floor gets wet. When they do slip, they are far more likely to suffer a serious injury. Adding a slip-proof coating to the bathroom floor is a simple and affordable way to make the bathroom safer.

7) Bathroom Entrance

walk-in-shower-2In order to make it easy for a handicap person to enter and exit, the bathroom should have a zero-step entrance without a door. If privacy is considered important, a sliding door can be used, but a curtain or wraparound entrance that provides privacy without a physical obstacle is preferable. The entrance for a handicap friendly bathroom should be at least 32″. If the doorway is located in such a place that requires turning a wheelchair, the ideal width is 36″.

8) Grab Bars:

ADA compliant grab bars should be installed in the bathtub, shower, and around the toilet. Real bathroom design doesn’t always allow for large master bathrooms, but even if you are forced to build a small bathroom, there is always room for grab bars.

toilet-seat-lift9) Toilet Height:

The optimal toilet height varies from person to person, but it is generally around 18″. The standard 15-17 inche toilet seat height causes problems for many disabled individuals. Elevating the seat 5-6″ Toilets should have grab bars on either side, or preferably both. There are raised toilet seat add-on’s available that raise the height of the toilet between 4-6″ and make sitting on the seat a little softer.

10) This has nothing to do with handicap bathrooms, but it’s fairly funny. Could you – would you – dare to use this bathroom? First, the outdoor view.


And now the indoor view

Thanks for reading the article. I hope you found it useful. If you have any great ideas for handicap bathroom remodeling or design, please contact me. I will also do my best to answer any questions you might have. By: David Petersen – www.wasauna.com


  1. This article was very helpful. I am building a quilting studio and want my bath to be handicap acessible. None of the plumbers or builders were quite as helpful as this article. This will help me to built it to meet my needs while making it acessible for anyone who might need it ( including me someday). Now off th the plumbing supply store to buy the right stuff for my husband to install! Thank you very much.

  2. the article was very informative but where do you buy the products like the raise vanity and sinks that aren’t institutional and the showers you show are unlike anything I’ve been able to locate. Thanks

  3. We need to build a complete handicap bathroom. I like the walk in with a tiled floor. Where do I get the cabinets for the sink and other items I need to build this?

  4. Very informative as I am trying to convert a pre-existing bathroom into one that is easier for my husband, who as become very unsteady on his feet and requires assistant but also one that I can use with ease

  5. I truly appreciate this article because I have been web-seaching for the a-b-c’s of how to construct a handicap accessible bathroom from a pre-existing bathroom. This article gave me the options and dimensions needed. Thanks

  6. I am very interested in the walk in shower. However, I would like dimensions. I have a 4 ft wide 5 ft long area that I would like to put this. Also where can I purchase this and how much? Thank you

  7. Above is a great website with many to choose from. All the information you need can be found there as well.

  8. Informative, but please do not use the phrase “wheelchair bound” – use “wheelchair user” instead. I am a wheelchair user, but I am not chained or bound to my chair. I use my chair for safety and independence.

  9. Hi Dave

    I wouldn’t use the bathroom…that is if it is in the streets. I would want to have one for our house. :D

    Anyway, having a walk in shower or tub will definitely benefit the people living with disabilities. They should feel that they are cared. My friend (before he died) suffered stroke and was disabled for more than 5 months. Disabled people will be more sensitive and possibly would feel hopeless. So it is better to show to them that we care and still love them despite their disabilities.

    Universal Design Specialist – maker of Handicap Bathrooms, making life easier for seniors and disabled people


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