What Are the Best Tips for Designing a Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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The bathroom is perhaps one of the most difficult rooms in the house for a wheelchair-bound person to navigate safely and easily, so modifications may be necessary to ensure safe use. A wheelchair accessible bathroom should be as open as possible to allow for wheelchair movement, and extra room next to the toilet and near the bathtub will be necessary to allow easy transitions onto the toilet or into the tub. Before these modifications can be done, however, the wheelchair accessible bathroom will need a doorway that is wider than some standard doorways to allow for safe passage into and out of the bathroom.

A pocket door might be the best choice for a wheelchair accessible bathroom, since opening and closing hinged doors can be difficult for a person in a wheelchair. It will be necessary to maneuver the chair around the door as it hinges open and closed, meaning more room on either side of the door will be necessary. A pocket door eliminates this trouble, since the door slides horizontally easily into the wall. These doors are not exceptionally difficult to install, but it will require some demolition of the wall itself.


A wheelchair accessible bathroom should be designed around a specific person, if possible or feasible. This will allow for customization based on that person's preferences and abilities; a younger person in a wheelchair, for example, may be able to maneuver more easily than an elderly person, and a taller person may not need low shelves and countertops as a shorter person will. In just about all cases, however, the wheelchair accessible bathroom will need to include features specific to wheelchair-bound persons, such as lower countertops and mirrors, low drawers and shelves, lowered towel hangers, and so on. Fixtures such as toilets may need to be specially designed to reach the height of a wheelchair, and support bars will need to be installed on the walls around the toilet and in the shower to allow the wheelchair-bound person to transfer himself from the chair to the toilet or into the shower.

The shower will need support bars as well as a low clearance on the front lip of the tub to allow the person to get in and out easily. Some showers feature doors that open and close for even easier access. Once inside the tub, the wheelchair-bound person will need all controls lowered, and the shower head will need to be hand-held for easier use. A small stool will allow the person to sit while bathing.


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Post 2

For a person who still has some lower body mobility, one of those walk-in bathtubs might be a good choice, if the person can transfer fairly easily between the tub and the chair. I think this enables the person to have a greater degree of independence, and helps maintain the person's dignity.

Post 1

Wide doorways are a must, along with straight-in access. A wheelchair bound person will have a difficult time going down a hall and taking a sharp corner into a narrow bathroom. That just doesn't work very well.

I have seen motorized pocket doors, where the person pushes a button to open and close the door, and if you're going to install a pocket door for access, might as well go all the way with it and install one that's really easy for the person to use.

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