A child’s home should be both safe and allow freedom of movement. That can be tricky to arrange if the child has a physical disability that impairs their mobility. One way to ensure a child’s freedom of movement is to put the most important rooms, like their bedroom and bathroom, on the main floor, so they won’t have to try to navigate stairs. However, the bathroom is a small space to navigate for any child with physical disabilities. Here are a few ways you can upgrade your bathroom to make it less hazardous for them.
In order to accommodate a wheelchair, the bathroom will need at least 30 by 48 inches of clear floor space. The toilet seat should be no higher than 19 inches, and the sink and countertop should be no taller than 34 inches. The latter should also have space for the wheelchair to roll under them. The faucets need to be designed so the child can turn them with only one hand and a force of no more than five pounds of pressure.
There needs to be support or guard rails near the toilet and in the shower within easy reach. They will provide enough support so the child can get off the toilet or in or out of the bathtub with little trouble. Most support rails or grab bars can support a person who weighs up to 250 pounds. Sheltering arm grab bars are attached to the toilet on both sides; many also have legs that extend to the floor to provide extra support.
The showerhead should have pressure balancing or anti-scald valves to reduce the risk of being burned by hot water. A pull-out or hand-held showerhead will allow the child to wash themselves while seated. Some showerheads have slide bars that allow the user to adjust the height.
Gel mats will prevent the child from slipping on a wet floor. They should be placed in the tub, just outside it, and near the sink and toilet. While this may not be necessary for wheelchair-bound children, others with muscular or mental disabilities can benefit greatly both from the aid against slipping, and the somewhat padded landing surface in the case that they do.
The traditional closed shower is located either in a bathtub or is surrounded by walls. The open shower, by contrast, has no enclosures. It opens up space in the bathroom and is much easier to navigate. It is similarly easy to put a water-proof chair under the showerhead. The installation of hydro construction products like floor drains and shower grates can help you achieve this, leaving no bath or shower curbs to hurdle for your child.
Some of these modifications can be expensive. Fortunately, there are grants that people can use to pay for modifications designed to help a person with a disability.