Research shows that 4.4 percent of disabled people in Australia use a wheelchair, and those people often need to make changes to their homes to accommodate one. When a home is being converted for wheelchair use, the bathroom is one of the key areas. Many wheelchair users have separate shower wheelchairs they use to wash themselves in.
Here are six things you should consider adding to make the showering experience safer and more convenient for those who need disability care.
1. Zero-Entry Cubicle
If the user is going to be using a shower wheelchair instead of transferring themselves to a shower seat or stool, they're going to need to be able to move their wheelchair into the shower area without difficulty. Make sure there's no lip or dip between the showering area and the rest of the bathroom – such showers are known as 'zero entry'. A cubicle generally works better than a wet room for wheelchair users since they keep the rest of the bathroom from getting too wet.
2. Linear Drainage Grate
The type of drain you choose from the shower might not seem like a big concern, but it is. Traditional round drains need to be put in the centre of a showering area, which presents an obstruction for wheelchairs. They don't drain very fast, which increases the amount of condensation in a bathroom, making it easier to slip, and they generally require quite a slope, which can obviously be a problem for wheelchair users. A linear grate drains fast and can be placed to the side. The slope is much gentler, and there won't be any obstructions in the centre of the showering area.
3. Vinyl Flooring
There are several flooring options recommended for wheelchair users, but none cover all the bases like vinyl.
Handy characteristics of vinyl flooring for wheelchair users include:
- Non-Slip Surface: Provides great traction for wheelchair wheels, especially when you choose a matte finish. If the user isn't confined to a wheelchair and can move around a little on their feet, vinyl floors help prevent falls.
- Smooth Surface: There are no joint in vinyl flooring, and it's stiff enough to keep wheelchairs moving without additional effort.
- Extremely Tough: Unlike other flooring materials, vinyl is extremely resistant to wear, so it won't get damaged through heavy wheelchair use.
5. Smart Shower Solutions
Lowering your shower controls is a good idea if the user is going to be in a wheelchair, but it's not the only option. If the user is comfortable getting to grips with the latest technology, you might want to consider adding a few smart shower solutions. These integrate the shower with smartphones, so the user can start the water and adjust the temperature before they even get wet. This can be a real advantage for wheelchair users since they can set the shower up perfectly before getting in and then roll out before having to turn the shower off. You can also set the shower to turn off after a certain period.
6. Rotating Tray
Some wheelchair users worry about manoeuvring themselves out of the shower. In a wheelchair, you'll go in facing the wall and then need to roll back out. Most people find going forwards more comfortable than going backwards. Additionally, wheelchair users with limited upper body strength may find it hard to push backwards when the shower floor is even slightly sloped. Rotating trays provide a solution. The shower floor will have a large circular section onto which the wheelchair can be positioned. When the user needs to get out, they can rotate to face the entrance. Rotating trays also make it easier to reach all parts of the body.