The Accessible Bathroom
Part 2 – Basic Layout

Note: The "Accessible Bathroom" series originally appeared on a blog page and was never completed. Several elements of design have not been discussed such as fixtures, electrical and cabinetry. It is not known if the series will ever be completed. However, if you have a specific question relating to the topic here, feel free to contact us with your question.

The Room's Shell

Let's take a closer look at the bathroom's basic area. This will provide a blank canvas in which to choose fixtures, tile and cabinets.

The original architect liked angled walls (see the original design from Part I.) Maybe he thought it was stylish. Here, they serve no purpose but to create wasted space. To maximize the space inside of the room, I removed the angled wall.

The intent was only to have cabinets at one end of the room and not on two walls as in the original design. This allows for more floor space for navigating a wheelchair or storage of a shower wheelchair if needed without restricting the accessible space in the room. In changing this, this puts the placement of the plumbing and electrical off-center of the wall. Cabinet placement and layout shown right is interim from the existing design and not the final. It is only there for reference. I'll address how I approached the cabinet design, electrical and plumbing later.

Having a wall-mounted medicine chest was not practical being in a wheelchair since I couldn't reach it. I removed it and patched the hole. If you have small children, it could be the only reason to locate it on the wall.

The bathroom door was a significant problem that required to be changed. I originally considered a pocket door. This provided the greatest room access from either side of the door. However, this provided the least amount of accessibility.

  1. The difficulty in sliding the door open or closed with limited strength or coordination. A conventional door can be pushed or pulled into position.
  2. Whichever wall the door slid into, nothing could be located on that wall such as a light switch or grab bar. My desire was to have grab bars on the walls located on both sides of the doorway.

The only solution was to have the door swing away from the bathroom. Having the door swing open left or open right into the bedroom will depend upon how the bedroom is laid out. The remaining issue of the door was width. If you wheeled-feet like I do, a doorway could be 10 feet wide and you'll still run into the door frame. Ideally the wider the better for door. Doors come in standard sizes, most common for accessible design is 36 inches wide. For me, I chose to retain the existing door width of 32 inches wide. The plan shows the final solution that was best in my case. (Original floor plan or more discussion from Part I)

The original shower design was one that you had to step into. I wanted a roll-in shower. A major concern was of water that splashed outside of the immediate shower area and flooding the bathroom. The solution was rather easy. We chipped away at the foundation such that a shower floor extended beyond the shower area by about a foot. This process was extremely messy and noisy as required a small jackhammer to chip through the concrete foundation. Concrete dust got out everywhere. The mistake I made in my final design was the back wall of the shower should have been made flush with the side of the bathroom. The wall is moved into the shower area to be standard shower width. If I had to do it over again I would make the shower wall flush. What exactly will be required for modification for a roll-in shower floor will depend upon if your floor is concrete slab as it was in my case or, if wood framing. The only restriction to having a role-in shower will be selection of floor tile. Floor tile should be limited in size because of the curve of the roll-in area to no greater than two or three inches in size. You'll have to check with the contractor if you want to have vinyl flooring which I don't think would work.

Depending upon your needs, you may need to reinforce the ceiling to accommodate a ceiling-mounted track system for transfers. There are luxury items too that you may wish to consider, budget permitting, such as a heated floor or heated towelbars. My budget didn't have room for a heated floor but a search on "heated bathroom floor" will yield sources and more information (opens in a new window).