The bathroom is one of the most vital, but also one of the most difficult rooms in the house to alter. Most bathrooms are small and crowded with fixtures and cabinetry.
We did a few things to improve the accessibility of the bathroom at the same house where we built the ramp. The owners were a family with three boys. One of the boys, Ian, was in a car accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. His bedroom and bathroom are upstairs, so now he uses a lift to get up and down the stairs.
Sometimes doorways are too narrow for wheelchairs. To give more clearance to Ian's bathroom doorway, we installed swing-clear hinges so the door swings back and out away from the entrance. You can also remove the door stops to get another 1/2" clearance on either side of the entrance. A good alternative to a swinging door is a pocket door.
Ian can roll his chair up sideways to the vanity to brush his teeth. One way to get more room in a bathroom is by replacing a closed-in vanity with a pedestal sink. Although, in this case, the family really needed the storage space in the bathroom.
To get in the shower, Ian was using a transfer chair, but it didn't fit in the tub well and his brothers had to keep moving it when they used the shower.
To make the shower more usable for both Ian and his brothers, we installed a few new gadgets. First a bath bench for him to transfer on, and then a support bar to help support him. Both of these fold up out of the way. To attach the seat to the wall we needed some sort of backing. We ended up tearing into the wall on the other side and installing some supports for us to screw in to.
We also installed a new shower unit with a hand-held shower head that had an on/off switch on it. With this Ian can adjust his water temperature, pull the diverter on the faucet, do his transfer, then turn on the hand-held shower. And we installed a glide bar so he could also hook the shower head on that. When Ian's brothers use the shower they just put the shower head back up in it's normal spot.
The ideal situation here would be a roll-in shower with an adjustable shower seat.
We also put some grab bars around the toilet. On the left side we attached the bar to the cabinet and through some backing we put on the inside of the cabinet. On the right side we had to angle the bar a bit in order to hit the studs, because we didn't want to have to open up this wall and ruin the wallpaper.
This situation isn't ideal either, usually you want room to the side of the toilet for easier transfers. It's also nice to have the toilet seat at the same height as the wheelchair, usually 18 inches, but a removable raised seat works well too.
Ian's house is a good example of what most people face; having to make do with what they have. Obviously, different bathrooms and different people will create different needs. And sometimes totally remodeling a bathroom is a possibility or a real necessity.
At another house we worked on, one of the home owners, Dennis, had been in a car accident and suffered a spinal cord injury which left him quadriplegic. Because of the extent of his condition, the bathroom needed to be totally remodeled and opened up.
The products installed in the bathroom allowed for Dennis's current needs, but were also made adaptable to allow for improvements in his mobility. That's because of this unique rail mounting system. The support arms, shower seat, and even the sink are adjustable both horizontally and vertically.
The shower also has a built-in anti-chill and anti-scald feature to protect Dennis's skin if there's a sudden change in the water temperature.