How to Remodel a Bathroom for Wheelchairs

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Being in wheelchair changes the way you interact with the world, making some tasks difficult or impossible. Bathroom access is especially tough, with small doors, tiny interiors and unwelcoming features. If you're planning a bathroom remodel, incorporate features that make it easier for a wheelchair occupant to maneuver.

  • Replace the current bathroom door with one that meets the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA. A door 36 inches wide provides ample space for a wheelchair to pass through. Install the door so it swings outward, not inward.

  • Enlarge the bathroom until you have at least 60 inches of space in the center of the room to maneuver a wheelchair. This may entail a major structural remodeling to move an existing bathroom wall. Consult a reputable builder to determine the safest way to enlarge the bathroom during the remodel process.

  • Install a roll-through shower that allows a wheelchair occupant to transfer to a shower chair or use a special shower wheelchair. ADA showers are available from plumbing suppliers, or you can fashion a custom shower wide enough for a wheelchair to enter.

  • Raise the height of the commode for easy transfer from a wheelchair. Install transfer bars on the sides of the commode if the wheelchair occupant can use his arms to move himself from one seat to another. Otherwise, provide enough room beside the toilet to use a handicapped lift.

  • Mount sinks on the wall so a wheelchair user can access them easily. Use faucet levers and low mirrors to make grooming a snap. Provide ample drawer storage at a reachable height to stash cosmetics and medicine. Consider a drawer lock if children have access to the bathroom.

Tips & Warnings

  • When remodeling your bathroom for wheelchair access, ask the builder to provide ample reinforcement blocking in the walls for grab bars. In addition, request blocking in the ceiling area if you plan to install any ceiling-mounted support lifts or accessories.

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