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25 Apr 2016

Accessibility: Shower Seats and Grab Rails

- Written by Ash Bath

At AKW we always try to remember that accessibility is relative to each user. A facility that may be seen as accessible for one person, may be completely inaccessible for a different person with varying needs. This is heightened when we come to discuss showering solutions. Read our original blog on What makes “accessible”… accessible?

Adding grab rails and a shower seat to a bathroom is widely seen as making a bathroom accessible; however, this is not necessarily the case. When it comes to adapting an existing bathroom or designing a completely new one with a disabled user in mind, every detail must be taken into consideration, from the type of rail or seat installed to the position of them in relation to other parts of the room.

The most important factors are the needs of the users of that room. Are there multiple users? What additional needs do they have? Are they in a wheelchair? Do any of the users suffer from dementia? Each person potentially may have different needs, alternatively, only one user may have additional needs and the bathroom will only need adaptations to suit them.

After the needs have been established and realised, a surveyor can then go into the room and establish the best way for the inclusive items and standard bathroom items to be installed. When it comes to grab rails, positioning is key. They can’t be too high, or too far from the shower seat causing the user to have to stretch causing a risk of falling, alternatively, they should not hamper the use of the bathroom by other users. Is one of the users partially sighted or suffering from dementia? Then it may be necessary to have a grab rail which is in a contrasting colour to the wall/tiles it is on offering a clear point to grab on to.

Similarly with shower seats, there are many points to consider. Does the user need assistance getting on and off of the shower seat? This could mean that it needs to be positioned with a side transfer in mind. Perhaps arm rests could offer more support, or maybe they will restrict the user? Depending on the wall the seat is attached too, it may require supporting legs for added sturdiness or maybe a freestanding seat would be better.

After all of the above considerations have been met, then there is the option of adding style to meet personal taste. It’s important that this isn’t included at the expense of functionality though. A wooden slatted seat may look preferable, but for somebody partially sighted or for a user that will be sat on that seat for long periods, it would not be the best option.

Always remember, adding grab rails and a shower seat to a bathroom does not make that an accessible bathroom, each item selection needs careful consideration, as does the position it is fitted and in relation to other bathroom facilities.

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