A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article for Designer Kitchen & Bathroom magazine about accessible design and it was really eye-opening. So today I’d like to share some of the things I learnt about accessible bathroom design that is suitable for an ageing population or for people living with a disability.
But first, let’s have a look at some important statistics. According to Scope, the disability equality charity in England and Wales, there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. This means that more than 1 in 5 potential UK consumers are living with a disability.
The UK also has an ageing population. The Age UK Later Life report, which was released earlier this year, estimated there to be almost 12 million people in the UK aged 65 and over. By 2030, one in five people in the UK (21.8%) will have reached this age. Currently, 6.5 million households in England are headed by someone aged 65 and over; equating to around one-third of all households and this is predicted to rise by 54% by 2041.
When you look at it like that, there is a considerable proportion of the population who would benefit from accessible bathroom design. So let’s take a closer look at some of the ways that we can ensure that our bathrooms are designed with the principles of accessible design in mind.
One of the major challenges that we may face as we get older or if we have mobility issues is obviously getting in and out of the bathtub. It’s not easy to step in and out of a standard bathtub, you have to be fairly agile and have good arm strength, and for many people, it’s just not the case. But there are other options on the market that make bathing independently a much easier experience.
Walk-in bathtubs, for example, have a door built into the side of the bath so you can easily step into the bath instead of climbing in and risking a fall. You can get these types of baths in various shapes and sizes from deeper ones you can sit in, to longer ones you can still lie down in for a soak.
You can also get baths that have an integral seat built into them. This allows you to sit half immersed in the bath. However, you will still require some upper body strength in order to manoeuvre yourself in onto the seat and out again.
If having a bath isn’t that much of a priority for you, you could always consider doing away with it entirely. Instead, consider a walk-in shower which can be more practical and less time-consuming for everyday washing. Take care when choosing your shower tray though as some still have a step that you will have to negotiate. This may become more difficult as time goes on and could become a trip hazard.
It may be wise to opt for a level access shower instead to avoid the step onto the shower tray. Or alternatively, opt for a wet-floor area, or a whole wet room. This completely does away for the need for a shower tray and also allows unrestricted access for wheelchair users.
Whichever shower option you go for there are other considerations you need to bear in mind in order to make safety a priority. Installing a shower seat, for example, allows you to sit down whilst showering if you can’t manage to stand for longer periods. Shower seats can be built into the structure of the shower cubicle or wet room making them extra sturdy. Just make sure that the seat is installed at the correct height.
Grab rails are another thing to consider, especially if you have poor balance or mobility issues. Bathrooms are notoriously wet and slippery so grab rails are a great aid for increased stability. They can be installed next to the toilet, the basin and in the shower.
For many people, one of the main worries when designing an accessible bathroom is that it will look like it belongs in an institution. But this doesn’t need to be the case. There are some really good looking accessible products on the market these days in various finishes that will work with your chosen decor scheme. No need to choose between functionality and aesthetics.