Once the doorway to the bathroom is
made wide enough to allow a wheelchair to pass through, he
or she needs to be able to move around freely. This is achieved
by either removing the door and replacing it with a curtain,
or by replacing the hinges of the door with Swing-clear
hinges found here: http://www.accessibleenvironments.net/homepage.htm
- For instance, a radiator can be removed
in favor of a portable space heater or overhead heating
- It may be necessary to reposition
an existing sink or remove the bathtub in favor of a roll-in/walk-in
shower. (These are more expensive options, but less
expensive than tearing down walls or moving.)
- The vanity for the sink can be replaced
with a smaller one and the door of the vanity can be removed
to provide knee space for a seated person. The hot water
pipe must be covered with insulating material or moved back
out of the way to protect legs from scalding.
- Vanities can be raised for someone
having difficulty bending over or lowered to accommodate
a seated person. If you have several people living in your
home, decide on a compromised height.
- Toilet height is also important:
if the toilet is too low, it's difficult for many people
to lower themselves down to it or to get back up. Toilets
that are too high are difficult to reach. This can be remedied
with portable toilet seats. Many different styles and types
are available, as well as safety straps and other
- Grab bars should be screwed directly
into wall studs on either side of the toilet and in the
bathing area. Molly bolts or screws in sheetrock are not
adequate. Grab bars should support a maximum of 250 pounds.
If the person weighs over 200 pounds, the wall studs must
be further reinforced. Grab bars help a person transfer
on and off the toilet and negotiate the bathing area. Sheltering
arm grab bars provide additional balance and thus may
be more appropriate. Sheltering arm grab bars are firmly
secured to the toilet to surround both sides of the toilet
and have legs that reach the floor.
- Make sure to place anti-slip rubber
decals on the bathtub or shower floor to prevent slips
and falls. Small bathroom rugs are dangerous and
should be avoided completely.
- A hand-held shower will bring
the water down to a comfortable level. It's also possible
to install a stand or adjustable pole to free up the bather's
- Shower chairs or benches come
in many styles for the bather who needs to remain seated,
transfers out of a wheelchair, or has poor balance. Bathtub
lifts are also available through catalogs, the Internet,
and medical supply stores, however most of them require
another person to assist.
- Last of all, single-lever faucets
are easiest to use for weak hands or hands with decreased
sensitivity. When skin has decreased sensitivity, an anti-scald
device should also be installed in both the bathtub/shower
and bathroom sink.
Courtesy of Beyond Barriers
Renters need to carefully investigate
the general accessibility of an apartment they're considering
renting, as well as bathroom situation. Visualize which options
will provide access to the apartment. Talk to the landlord
about the changes you need to make. Ask if the bathroom walls
are reinforced or will be reinforced prior to the move-in
date in order to install grab bars. If necessary, ask to have
the bathroom door removed for the duration of the lease. Consider
whether a portable ramp will be enough to make the front door
accessible, or is there another accessible entrance. New buildings,
especially new elevator buildings, are fully accessible (providing
the real estate company has followed ADA guidelines; if not,
redoing accessibility features after the fact is much more
costly and the company will be fined as well.)
Remember that because of the Fair Housing Act, it is
illegal for a landlord to outright refuse to make reasonable
accommodations. The tenant pays for these accommodations.
When tenants move out, they must restore the dwelling to its
original condition, if the landlord desires. Sometimes a landlord
will pay for part of the accommodations because accessibility
features enhance the dwelling. Grab bars or levered door handles
will make a unit potentially more marketable to more people,
such as elderly tenants or tenants with limited mobility.
The landlord and tenant should be able to work out the modifications
For more information on the Fair Housing Act and Amendments
of 1988, see the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) Web site: http://www.hud.gov:80/sec8.html#a.
HUD also offers a "Disability" resources page loaded
with helpful information: http://www.hud.gov:80/disabled.html.