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When you hear the words “accessibility renovation” or “barrier-free remodel”, do you immediately picture in your head a senior citizen with a walker trying to use the bathroom, or, perhaps a victim of an injury that has left them in a wheelchair rolling up to their front door on a ramp? Although these might be the classic notions of accessibility remodeling, we’re starting to see a perception change in our culture. People are very interested in convenience. We can watch our favorite shows anytime we want with services such as netflix. We can do our grocery shopping online and have it even delivered to our door.
This ‘convenience’ is also starting to creep into the way we design (or remodel) our homes. Kitchen cabinets have gone from boxes with shelves to pull out glides that make it easy to reach that pot buried in the back of the cabinet. Whether you think it or not, these convenience pieces in our renovations are, really, a facet of accessibility renovations. They aren’t necessarily for someone who has mobility issues. They’re for everyone and we should think of including them in our renovation designs whether we need them or not.
Perhaps the most important part of the home (although not the only one) to add some accessibility features is the bathroom. Bathrooms, especially in older homes, are not really convenient places to bathe. Here are three things you can do to make your bathroom more accessible.
Change your toilet to a comfort height, elongated one.
Changing your toilet is perhaps the easiest and least disruptive change in your bathroom. In fact, even if you aren’t planning a bathroom remodel, go out to your big box retailer and purchase one for yourself. For under $300, you can buy a dual flush one that pretty much comes with most of the items you would need to install it, and the instructions for installing one are pretty easy too (you may need to pick up a water supply line, but they’re inexpensive too). The benefit of a comfort height toilet is, funny enough, that it’s more comfortable to sit on. Sure, maybe your knees are perfectly fine, but have you ever over done it on leg day at the gym? Or are you a weekend warrior who plays a pick up game of hockey with some friends? When your leg muscles are aching, you’ll really appreciate that you don’t have to squat down so far to sit down. As an added bonus, all of these toilets manufactured today conserve less water, meaning that you’re not flushing as much money down the drain each time you go.
Join the dark side, get rid of your tub.
If you are a person who likes to soak in the bathtub with a glass of wine and a good book, please skip this part. If you are like a lot of people who get into the bathtub and….turn on
the shower, you should really consider replacing the tub with a walk in shower. Designs for showers have come a long way from the grimy, white, acrylic shower pan and acrylic shower walls. Instead, we are seeing a lot more tiled showers. The benefits are many. They are easy to clean, they are more roomy than a tub, and you can get just about any look you’d like with the endless choices in tile colors and patterns. As well, if you like the idea of sitting down to bathe, it’s a simply matter of planning for a shower bench. No more waiting for the tub to fill. No more having to drain the water because it started to get cold.
Best of all, there are fewer chances of slipping and hurting yourself because you are not doing the balancing act of getting into and out of a tub with a wet surface. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, half of fall injuries that lead to hospitalization of seniors occur in the home and the two most common places for a fall are in the bathroom and on the stairs. Of course, younger people don’t injure themselves as often as seniors do at home in the bathroom, but why even take the chance if you don’t even use the bathtub as a tub?
Add a few grab bars
As little as ten years ago, grab bars weren’t as common as they are now. I recall in one of our first accessible bathroom projects, we have to order the grab bars from the United States. Sure, a few medical supply stores stocked a very limited supply but the choices weren’t geared towards how the thing looked. Nowadays, grab bars of all sizes and finishes can be found in your big box retailers, such as Home Depot or Lowes, and specialty sites serving the Canadian marketplace are stocking grabs bars like the one featured on the left. Sure, it still looks like a grab bar, but drape a towel on it and you may not even realize it’s a grab bar. The fact is, more and more people are realizing the benefit of having grab bars in their bathroom and the grab bars themselves are looking more and more like they belong in a bathroom…and not a hospital room.
We these three changes, you can add a lot more convenience to your home…and your life. When you’re facing that eventual bathroom renovation, don’t forget to include some of these ‘accessible’ ideas.