Interior design for people with disabilities is a task for disciplined and sensitive architects. The bathroom for all these people must enable independent, trouble-free implementation of physiological and hygienic needs. Aesthetics is equally important. We advise what you should have in mind when arranging bathrooms for people with disabilities – both in public facilities and in private apartments.
People with disabilities are an integral part of our society. They use educational and cultural facilities, commercial facilities, catering, hotel, leisure, and healthcare. The immanent right of these people is to live in conditions enabling reasonably independent existence. The architect’s task is to remove all possible barriers which could interfere with this autonomy. Another task of the architect is to provide maximum comfort and positive aesthetic experience.
Bathroom compliant with norms
Building regulations, as a collection of mandatory guidelines for an architect, are the starting points for creating comfortable and safe restrooms for people with disabilities. The finished project should also be consulted with appraisers from sanitary-epidemiological station, health and safety and fire protection, obtaining positive opinions at the same time.
Bathroom for people with disabilities must of course be easily accessible – too narrow doors cannot stand on their way (recommended width: 90-100 cm). Nowhere can there be a difference in levels, degrees, and protruding thresholds – each of these obstacles can become an insurmountable barrier for a person in a wheelchair.
Such bathroom must be ergonomic.
The manoeuvre space for wheelchairs must be a minimum of 150 cm. It should be remembered, however, that electric wheelchairs have a slightly larger dimensions and less manoeuvrability than active ones (set in motion by the strength of the hands of a person using it), therefore it pays off to enlarge this space in relation to the requirements of the standard.
The functional layout of the bathroom is very important. Coming with a wheelchair under a sink or moving from a trolley to a toilet bowl requires free space, so the sink, toilet seat, shower or bathtub cannot be located too close to each other.
Non-contact basin faucets and soap dispensers are also desirable.
The shower is best arranged as a spacious walk-in cabin, without a shower tray – this is the most convenient solution for both people with disabilities and for seniors.
If the bathtub is to be installed in the bathroom and a special bathroom lift is installed, remember about the clearance between the floor and the bottom of the bathtub – this clearance will allow you to move the base of the lift into the bathtub in order to leave the person wanting to use the bathtub.
People who are sick, moving on crutches or on wheelchairs need a substrate with an excellent grip. On the floor, therefore, use highly non-slip ceramic tiles (for example marked with the anti-slip R12 parameter). You can also choose tiles with the “Bare foot” certificate, which guarantees extreme grip also in wet conditions, so typical for bathrooms.
Subdued Naturstone rectified tiles with the appearance of a natural stone will work great thanks to excellent anti-slip parameters (R12 and “Bare Foot” certificate).
Remember that the ceramics on the floor must be perfectly laid. Any inequalities resulting from incorrect assembly are not allowed. Each protruding edge can cause a dangerous fall.
The more uniform the floor surface, the better – hence, take into consideration the rectified tiles. The narrow joints of such tiles will make the wheels move smoothly without any unpleasant vibrations.
Also, take into account that there cannot be any rugs laid on the floor – in the event of their curling, they could pose a threat to the safety of people using the bathroom.
Hygiene and the ease of cleaning the bathroom
An equally important aspect is hygiene and the ability to keep the bathroom clean. Therefore, for both floors and walls, choose only ceramic tiles with a Hygienic Certificate. Bathroom ceramics in public facilities should also be resistant to staining and cleaning agents.
Remember that soap dispensers, electric dryers or paper towels and waste bins should be within users’ hands reach (similar to a toilet cleaning brush).
A bathroom floor for people with disabilities must be very resistant to bending, breaking and abrasion. The weight and pressure of the wheels is a considerable burden – so pay attention to the technical documentation for the tiles and choose those with good parameters in the “breaking strength” tests.
Abrasive sand particles, brought in on the treads of wheels and on the footwear of the users can be also destructive to the floor, if you do not use ceramics with high abrasion resistance parameters (for example PEI 5/12000, PEI 4/6000 for glazed porcelain or good abrasion parameters of deep abrasion for the unglazed porcelain).
This is of great importance especially in facilities with increased traffic, such as health care facilities, cultural facilities, shopping malls, etc.
Of course, you cannot forget about aesthetics. Nothing prevents the bathrooms of people with disabilities from being simply beautiful. You can pick and choose in ceramic collections by selecting tiles with the required parameters and the desired look. You can count on an industrial, minimalist style, a combination of wood and white, a timeless stone classic and many other options. The choice is almost unlimited. If the bathroom looks cramped, you can use some tricks to visually enlarge its space.
Specialist auxiliary equipment
Auxiliary equipment definitely makes it easier for people with special needs to use the bathroom. We need to provide space for the installation and ergonomic use of this equipment. All handrails, handles or additional seats must be mounted in a way that guarantees safety (for example, it is absolutely unacceptable to install brackets in light, non-reinforced partition walls).
The surface of handles and handrails must not have sharp edges and must allow a firm grip (which, for example, is improved by a non-slip or corrugated surface).
When selecting specific models of specialist equipment, always check the technical documentation.
In houses and flats occupied by persons with disabilities, the design principles are similar as in the case of public bathrooms. It also has to be safe, clean, easy, and comfortable – as well as beautiful and cozy, just like at home. However, while in public facilities parameters of such bathrooms are averaged according to the norm, in private spaces the manoeuvring surface is determined by the type and degree of disability of a given person. What counts are individual features such as: overall fitness of the person, the reach of the upper limbs, as well as the type, height of the wheelchair seat and the degree of its manoeuvrability.
The size and type of the seat under the shower can be individually adjusted to the user’s size, as well as the number, arrangement, and size of all specialist handles. For example, swivel handrails, used on both sides of the toilet, are usually available in sizes from 50 to 80 cm, and their length adjusts to the size of the toilet seat (which in turn should be selected according to the needs of the person).
In small block bathrooms, it is worth moving anything out of the bathroom space that could hinder comfortable use of its functions. Usually, you need to find a new place for standing bathroom cabinets, and sometimes also for a washing machine.
- The task of the architect and interior designer is to make people with disabilities feel comfortable in the bathroom and to make them use their sanitary and hygienic functions freely.
- When designing such a bathroom, take care of its accessibility, i.e. a uniform floor level (without steps and thresholds), as well as a sufficiently wide door.
- Take care of the optimal manoeuvring space for trolleys, placing sanitary ceramics and all the equipment so that you can easily use every bathroom function.
- Take care of the users’ safety by selecting the tiles with the highest slip resistance (for example R12, tiles with “Bare foot” certificate).
- Remember about high performance ceramic tiles in terms of resistance to abrasion, bending and breaking strength, and resistance to cleaning agents. Check the technical documentation for each selected product.
- Take into account that each of us has every right to a positive aesthetic experience – make sure that the bathroom can not only safely meet your physiological and hygienic needs, but also please the eye.
- A well-designed bathroom for a person with a disability ensures its safety, comfort, and a sense of intimacy. It strengthens the personal sense of independence and general mental condition.