A careful planning of a bathroom that is accessible for people with limited mobility allows to furnish such a space easily and in a way that it is safe to use, without having to give up on a valuable outcome from aesthetic point of view. The bathroom is with no doubts the environment that more than other challenges project designers, but also companies, which over the past years have broadened their catalogs in order to include bathroom fixtures and accessories able to meet the most diverse requests without underestimating the form.
Accessible bathrooms: the challenge of Universal Design
In 1985 the American architect Ronald L. Mace coined the expression “Universal Design” to identify a specific design methodology adopted for the construction of buildings and spaces (besides products and services) that can be used by all and are therefore accessible by people who either are or not in a condition of reduced mobility. The deriving concept of “Design for all” is thus applicable to all people and stands for the claim that all human beings are different and each one of them has the right to choose their own lifestyle with no physical or social barrier interfering. Where possible, although it is not a specific need of the people who will live in the house, it is always desirable to plan a bathroom free of mobility barriers, which translates in watchfully avoiding stairs, thresholds and massive barriers that could easily turn into obstacles. Either in projects regarding brand new builds or renovation works, the choice of getting rid of all possible barriers should be considered as an investment for the future. As a result, by aging and even in the absence of particular physical requirements, the living conditions will turn out improved. In the specific case of the bathroom, for instance, it is advised to plan for a 80-90 cm wide door and for a space that is free of obstacles in the middle of the bathroom of at least 150x150 cm, together with enough free space in between each bathroom element.
Planning an accessible bathroom without giving up on design
The absence of barriers makes life easier not only for those who have a reduced mobility, but also for all those who, due to their age, find themselves in a temporary condition of reduced functioning of the lower limbs. Once the absence of architectural barriers has been ascertained, the first element to be considered when furnishing an accessible bathroom is the choice of the right bathroom fixtures. These have preferably to be wall-mounted, the seating being at 45-50cm from the floor and with a depth of around 75-80 cm from the wall. The washbasin, preferably a counter with no column, is to be installed at a convenient height, in order for it to be used also by people on wheelchairs, leaving free space underneath, so to allow an easy access to the tap (and this can be chosen in the single handle or lever version). It is then possible to install a mirror, better if inclined or tilting and all those accessories such as grab bars, normally installed at a height of 80 cm from the floor, so to be able to move more easily and avoid any domestic accidents. The shower cabin completed by a flush-fitting shower tray can be installed without door, with a hinged door that is large enough to allow any movement, or with a sliding door; it can be accessorized with a shower seat installed at 50cm from the floor. As an alternative to the shower, it is also possible to install a bathtub with door.