Do you dread a visit to the bathroom – because it’s simply inaccessible? There’s no reason for this to be the case, as DUNCAN WARD discovers
Designing an accessible bathroom from scratch can be a complex process. But, according to architect and universal access consultant at StudioHB Hiten Bawa, the cosmetic changes needed to turn an existing bathroom into an accessible space can be as simple as changing the floor tiles.
There are many more simple tricks that can make life easier, too. “Other cosmetic changes for wheelchair users include the installation of grab rails near the toilet, at the bathtub and in the shower cubicle to assist with transfer and stability,” Bawa says. Some of the infrastructural changes that could be made include widening the bathroom door to 850 to 900 mm (from
the standard 813 mm), with metal kick-plates on both sides to prevent damage from wheelchair impact.
Taps at basins can be changed to single-lever handles with long spouts for easy reach – these also make it easier to control the water temperature. Bawa recommends that an accessible bathroom have a minimum of 1,2 to 1,5 m of internal space clear for movement and transfer from a wheelchair to a toilet seat, a shower seat or a tub. (This space requirement can be tricky to achieve, though, he says, “because there is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially for showers and bathtubs.”)
Bawa believes South Africa has some way to go to catch up with international regulations regarding accessible bathrooms. Having said that, there are some assistive products – and these are the best of the bunch:
The Aqualift makes getting in and out of the bath easier. The installation consists of a wall-mounted unit above the bath, and no plumbing and electrical lines need to be changed.
Customers who are concerned about the safety aspect of having a 220V electrical device just above the water level needn’t worry, as the Aqualift runs entirely on a rechargeable battery pack. It fits most standard and straight bath installations and can bear a weight of up to 140 kg. It has easy-to-use, waterproof controls, and can lower and lift a wheelchair user at the touch of a button. The Aqualift uses a unique, soft and washable belt, and can be fully retracted when other family members want to use the bath.
Railman Grabrails manufactures grips, rails and handles for various applications, and specialises in manufacturing bathroom rails and mobility grips.
Its products include hinge rails, shower seats, swivel bathers, bath benches and monkey chains.
Railman offers colour-coded rails, so you can choose a shade to suit your bathroom’s colour scheme, as well as custom-made rails to fit any shape of bath. (Soon to come: a fold-up shower seat, designed to carry a weight of 250 kg.)
Also available are custom-built rails for use in confined spaces or where there are other restrictions and complications. Its fold-up, wide-reach hinge rail allows people to reach the rail regardless of the space between wall and toilet.
The product range includes sturdy basin rails, tested to carry a weight in excess of 250 kg. Delivery can be arranged for all products.
PrimaCare provides high-quality, medical-grade products designed to support mobility in a wide variety of applications. It sells mobility aids, caretaker aids and specialised bathroom accessories. Products range from basic handrails, grab rails, intermediate basic hoists and mobility aids to high-tech full-body hoists and autonomous mobility solutions.
New to its line-up is the Bellavita, a luxurious, compact and robust bath lift. It claims to be the lowest bath lift on the market, and the comfortable padded backrest can recline up to 50 degrees at the seat’s lowest position.
It has a two-piece design, which allows for simple, tool-free installation. The lift is held in place by four quick-release suction cups for extra security and grip. Two extra suction cups and a headrest are optional extras.
PrimaCare also offers the Peter Pan bath lift, which is a stylish combination of useful features and comfort. It has a mobile disc in the middle of the seat that rotates 360°. It reclines to a natural position, and allows for easy transfer to and from the chair.
With these products, your bathroom can be comfortable, stylish and easy to access.