How to Design Wheelchair Accessible Showers

Written by mark slingo
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How to Design Wheelchair Accessible Showers
A wheelchair user has many obstacles in life (wheelchair access sign image by Gina Smith from Fotolia.com)

A shower can be a difficult obstacle for a wheelchair user. Shower spaces need to be adapted so wheelchair users can use them independently. These adaptations do not involve massive departures from the style of a normal shower. Considerations for creating a wheelchair-accessible shower include space, assistance devices such as hand bars and shower seats, and safety precautions.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Asses the shower space available. The wheelchair needs space to be manoeuvred in and out of the shower, with additional space to be moved away from the shower if the wheelchair user elects to use the shower seat. In a bathroom it is a good idea to have the doors swinging outwards, so the wheelchair user is able to close the door behind him. When designing a wheelchair-accessible space, try to use a wheelchair as a tool to see if the manoeuvres in your design can be accomplished.

  2. 2

    Make sure that the floor of the proposed shower is flat with ample drainage. Drainage needs to be fully operative to avoid a slippery floor for both wheelchair transfers and other shower users. Using a shower tray is not feasible as it may block access for the wheelchair. However a small bump skirting the shower entrance, over which a wheelchair can be easily manoeuvred, can contain the water. If you design the shower area within a "wet room," then this skirt is not necessary.

  3. 3

    Ensure privacy for the wheelchair occupant. A curtain, sliding door, or door that swings outwards should be incorporated into the design. This will enable the wheelchair user to be able to enter the shower and remain secure and alone if desired.

  4. 4

    Place the shower components all within reach of the wheelchair user. This includes the shower head, taps, temperature controls, and the soap tray. They should all be located at around the height the wheelchair user is sitting. If desired you can place a separate shower head holder higher up for the use of others.

  5. 5

    Install the shower seat. Shower seats should be located at a height at which a wheelchair user can easily transfer to and from the wheelchair. There are a wide variety of seats available from bathroom and product retailers. If space is limited in the area, then using foldaway seats can be considered.

  6. 6

    Install safety bars. These should be at a height that the wheelchair user can easily grab for support in the event of a fall. If possible the positioning of the bars should be able to aid the user in transferring to and from the shower seat.

Tips and warnings

  • Incorporate extra space for manoeuvring the wheelchairs to avoid damage to the shower area and appliances when a chair is moved.

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