Showers for Everyone

September 24, 2021

There is nothing more refreshing than a warm shower to start your day, or to wash the stress away after long day at work. Showers are one of life's true pleasures, and that pleasure can be taken for granted. For elderly individuals or people with disabilities, standard showers can present obstacles both figuratively and literally. Fortunately, there are numerous accessible solutions for independent bathing.


Whether you are replacing an existing shower/tub unit, adding a new bathroom, or building a new home with accessible bathrooms, it's important to identify your physical needs and your budget. Once you have this identified, you can work towards your desired design. Some company's selling accessible units will artfully tell you that you need what they sell, but if you've already identified your needs and your budget, you can be the one to determine what product is best for you.

For instance, some sales people may tell you that tile shower pans are far superior than acrylic forms (which they don't sell,) and that may be true, but what they don't tell you is that tile is more expensive and cleaning tile grout is incredibly frustrating. This is somewhat facetious, but only to prove the point that it's important to do your homework. Also, consulting a professional contractor will help in understanding your structural limitations and budget realities.


There are many different design solutions for accessible bathing but below are the main functional solutions:

  • One level or zero threshold showers - These showers are barrier-free, it's a continuous floor between the shower and the bathroom space. This shower can be made to accommodate people of all abilities as it allows for easy wheelchair access as well as eliminates any trip hazards. The design choices are endless for this style of shower and budget will dictate where you go. The main challenge of this option is that your construction expands to your entire bathroom floor as there is no division between the shower and bathroom floor spaces. It is highly recommended that you consult a professional contractor when choosing this option to ensure you understand the structural requirements of your space.
  • Low profile showers - These showers have a small threshold that is easy to step over. They tend to be the more cost-effective solution and the construction does not require any changes to the bathroom floor. They too have many design options as they are popular choice for most shower builds or upgrades. They can be made of various materials depending on your design desire and your budget. You will however require a shower enclosure such as glass doors or a shower curtain to keep the water from spraying beyond the shower area. Manipulating doors or curtains is not ideal for some disabilities. Also, the threshold is a challenge for wheelchairs, but there are options to add a ramp attachment.
  • Ramped pan shower - This shower has a slope at the entrance which can be part of the shower pan unit or an attachment as mentioned above. This design allows for wheelchair access and also does not require any changes to the bathroom floor. Having said that, because of the ramp design, water can run down the ramp and onto your bathroom floor. As well, because of the ramp, you will have to use a shower curtain as doors probably won't fit around the ramp. This will increase the potential of water running onto the bathroom floor. Depending on budget, you may be able to find a custom solution to eliminate this problem or you may want to waterproof the area outside your shower. With either option, be sure to consult a professional contractor to ensure you make the best choice. Also, an experienced contractor may have a solution that hasn't been identified.


Now that you've determined your shower style, you now have to accessorize it. As much as this sounds like we're talking about design and style, it's actually still about functionality. The right accessories in the right location are fundamental to accessible showers. If you can't safely sit down, or reach the shampoo without straining or more importantly have something sturdy to grab onto you lose the ability to independently wash.

Again, we go back to knowing your needs. An overhead rain shower is a great option as the water concentrates in a small area but a hand-held shower unit may better serve your needs. Also, you may want to avoid buying prebuilt shower walls. Although they may be cheaper or easier to install, the niches for your soap and shampoo may be too high to reach if you're using a shower chair. Strategically place your unit to hold soap and shampoo so that it is always easy to access. And grab bars are essential for every accessible unit. Do not skimp when choosing or installing these bars. This is also a time when you may want to consult a contractor for installation. You need to ensure they are sturdy enough to handle the weight applied. Another accessory to think about is a weighted shower curtain. If your shower style or budget limits you to a shower curtain, a weighted curtain will help to prevent water from spraying beyond the shower unit.

All the accessories come in an array of styles from teak fold down chairs to sleek stainless toiletries trays to decorative grab bars. Choose ones that are not only functional but aesthetically pleasing as well!

Showering is cleansing, it's relaxing and it's therapeutic and should be enjoyed by people of all abilities!


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