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Universal Bathroom Design

November 15th, 2009

universal-bathroom.jpgSome years ago we had the experience of implementing universal bathroom design when working on a large bathroom for a man and his wife who were both confined to wheelchairs. The result was no ordinary 5-by-7-foot bathroom, to be sure. It had to be large enough for both of them to maneuver around in it at the same time, and while they did need assistance with some things such as bathing, they wanted to be able to handle other aspects like brushing their teeth by themselves. This was accomplished by elevating the sinks high enough so that they could wheel right up to them. In addition, the pipes below were pitched so they wouldn’t interfere with the wheelchairs, and we even padded them in case anyone bumped into them with their knees. The result was surprisingly inviting: It was convenient for the homeowners, and it had great style. It gave them pride in their home and complemented their lifestyle, which should be the goals of any bathroom no matter what.

A “universal bathroom” as this one is called, is one that is designed to meet the needs of people of all “ages, sizes, and abilities”, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), but the term has come to refer also to bathrooms that conform to a set of standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Prescribed measurements and clearances govern every aspect of the room’s layout and fittings in order to accommodate a person using a wheelchair, the largest piece of equipment someone with a disability might require. This includes having the 5-foot diameter that the ADA requires for a wheelchair to turn.

Other requirements include having a barrier-free, roll-in shower, which in this case turned the entire room into a shower, with no curb to block the passage of the wheelchair. For more details about these requirements, check the AARP’s Web site at www.aarp.org. There are some additional features that can make bathrooms easier, though these are not specifically spelled out by the ADA. You should always use nonslip tiles such as unglazed porcelain to cover the floor, rather than shiny materials such as polished marble. The tiles should be no larger than 4 inches square, and I even prefer tiny mosaic tiles that measure about half an inch on each side. These allow more grout per square foot, which is great for traction; also, the mosaics tend to follow the contour of the floor better, and thus make for a more maneuverable surface.

The goal in designing a universal bathroom is to make it a beautiful room without calling attention to its purpose. The best thing about a universal bath is that it works for everybody. Because of the lower position of its fixtures, children will feel comfortable there, as will older people with no particular physical disabilities. Making everybody comfortable is what good design is all about.


This article on universal bathroom design was supplied to us by “Plato” from the DigitalPoint forums under a private label rights license.


4 Responses to “Universal Bathroom Design”

  1. comment number 1 by: bathroom design contractor

    I have a small bathroom and toilet which I would like to decorate myself but have absolutely no design ideas. I am looking for some simple, attractive designs but everything on the web seems to be too plush and costly. thanks…

  2. comment number 2 by: Joseph

    You have some excellent ideas for bathrooms. That has been one of the recurring themes in my own life–looking for a way to make our bathrooms and our kitchen look really glorious, even though those rooms are much too small. One of the glories of the Internet, though, is that there is absolutely no dearth of ideas. Right now I have no idea of what I will ultimately do, but I keep hoping I will come up with something really slick.

  3. comment number 3 by: Tiles Adelaide

    For both luxurious and ordinary houses, marble tiles have been the best choice as material for flooring, counter top, and other home applications.
    Are you looking for gorgeous tiles? Visit us at Tiles Adelaide and get a wide array of tiles for your home.

  4. comment number 4 by: Daryl Brands

    In response to bathroom design contractor

    Free Bathroom Designs

    There are many small bath designs and most are very practical floor plans that fit into ordinary homes.

    Wishing you the very best.

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