Accessible & USER FRIENDLY BATHROOM

Bathrooms have turned into a wellness space where people are ‘investing’ money to transform them into spaces where they can spend a ‘quality’ time to rejuvenate themselves and relieve stress.

It is high time to get sensitive to how bathrooms are designed specially with respect to the elderly and people with special needs.

Bathrooms have turned into a wellness space where people are ‘investing’ money to transform them into spaces where they can spend a ‘quality’ time to rejuvenate themselves and relieve stress. At the same time, it doesn’t occur that similar kind of attention or interest is bestowed to transform the bath space for the elderly, differently-abled and for the patients at healthcare facilities. Rahul Kher, Country Manager, KEUCO GmbH & Co. KG India tells Surfaces Reporter how bathrooms are one of the most neglected spaces when it comes to healthcare in India and what best can be done to change the scenario. We love to hear from our readers. Contact us at PRESS@SURFACES.IN

Inaccessible Bath Spaces

Most of us have elderly parents and other members of our family who often complain about not able to use the bathroom properly which is actually designed keeping normal adults in mind. Similar problem arises in case of people with special needs. We often hear about elderly people getting hurt in bathroom due to slippery floors or having no support around while using functional areas. Not only in residences, bathrooms are often inappropriately designed even in hospitals and other public buildings which are used by people from all age group and strata of society. Rahul Kher, Country Manager, KEUCO GmbH & Co. KG India comments, “Well, you have to start by accepting that today, be it the senior citizen’s population, people with limited mobility or the ever growing healthcare industry in India, very little is being done, firstly to design the “care quality and then care delivery” within the bathrooms. Today is the time for the architects and most importantly the interior designers, to start approaching the bathroom space with bigger and higher design goals.”

There are many problems which a differently- abled person or an elderly person faces while using a bathroom meant for normal adult. Most of the times, they are devoid of hand rails with far too slippery floors causing them to fall. Similarly, there are other issues that cause discomfort to them.

“It is time to reinvent the barrier free bathrooms with clear deliverables, so that it has long lasting benefits for the users who are always seeking more sensitivity from the designers, developers and executers of these ‘sensitive bath spaces,’” he added further.

There is very clear and strong need to plan and design bathrooms which can adjust to the growing need for personal care & comfort and can deliver great efficiency in the years to come.

The idea is to understand and anticipate the expectations of the patients /users and how they perceive quality care delivery within the hospital, public space, airports, hotels and most importantly within their own homes.

Three aspects that need to be considered while designing a bathroom in a hospital or a public space:

Care Delivery

Whether the user is a young patient, an elderly man, middle aged lady or a pregnant woman, everyone needs utmost care within the bath space as their experience within the wash room gives them the perception on the overall quality of care they will receive during their stay in the hospital, hotel or a public place.

Safety

No matter how beautiful and engaging the space is, the bath space has to be safe for users. This is a clear need, however unfortunately does not get addressed very often as we always feel unsafe within the bath space. The bath space must have safety features including support railing system, grab rail, back rests, curtains, railing systems etc.

Comfort

This is also on a very high priority for users and it’s a challenge to deliver safety and comfort together. However, with KEUCO there is no challenge as we specialise in delivery safety and comfort together and make the bath space more comfortable, so that it helps patients in recovery also.

Bathrooms are vulnerable space in terms of spread of infection and the kind of interaction the patients has with other people within the hospital. The bath space should be designed in such a manner that there is less chance for infection transfer.

Designing the space with products like anti-bacterial wash basins, anti-bacterial, impregnated, stain proof curtain and the whole concept of tip up seats with a complete ergonomic showering system backed with robust accessorising of hand wash dispensers and wall mounted waste bins ensures that,the infection transfer does not happen.

Mr. Kher says, “Tip up seats and wet area stools can be used while showering. These tip up seats come in different sizes, colours and material depending on the requirement and the kind of patients.”

Support rails with back rest concept for the W/c is revolutionary as it helps the patients ergonomically to negotiate his movements around the w/c area.

Curtain and curtain railing systems to suit or adapt to any bathroom size and situation. These are special curtains, which are anti-bacterial, fungicide, antistatic, impregnated, perfectly suited for a hospital environment.

Wash-Basins with clean surface to ensure no stain or dirt settles on the surface and it is easy to clean.

There are many problems which a differently- abled person or an elderly person faces while using a bathroom meant for normal adult. Most of the times, they are devoid of hand rails with far too slippery floors causing them to fall. Similarly, there are other issues that cause discomfort to them.

“Lighting can have a great physiological effect on the well- being of the user/patients and with Edition 400 one can switch between cold and warm light to make the user -feel better. The effect of light on the patients wellbeing has always been overlooked in the hospital bathrooms and KEUCO is trying to open the discussion so that designers and thinkers start taking this into consideration while planning the bathrooms for healthcare.

Also, to walk from the bedroom towards the bathrooms during the night can be made easy with these light mirror as they can be intensified or de-intensified, so that it can help the patients to avoid slips and mishaps within the space,” Mr. Kher added.

How to design an ‘all accessible’ bath

Also, to walk from the bedroom towards the bathrooms during the night can be made easy with these light mirror as they can be intensified or de-intensified, so that it can help the patients to avoid slips and mishaps within the space,” Mr. Kher added.

Here are the considerations that we feel must be taken care of while designing bathrooms:

Courtesy: www.eastersealstech.com

  •  Using a rolling shower seat (small stool or plastic chair) at the height of 17” to 19”can allow the bather to sit while taking a shower. It can be removed for users who don’t need it.
  • A curbless shower is ideal for people using a wheelchair, walker or for someone who is at risk for falls and can be used by everyone regardless of ability. The opening to the shower is level with the floor and is sloped down to the drain. Also, installing a handheld showerhead that can accommodate a seated bather.
  • Grab bars in bathing area. Installing grab bars in all bathing areas. For a tub, two bars should be installed on the sidewall at standing and sitting range. For a shower, all three walls in roll-in shower should have grab bars and two walls should have grab bars in a transfer shower. A WC also should have a grab bar on either wall. Coordinate the controls to be near grab bars when possible.
  • Provision for Walk-in tubs to allow user to straight away walk inside the tub rather than climbing over it.
  •  Touch sensor or remote accessible devices to control all components of bathroom including showers, lights, WCs etc.
  • A nonslip floor in the shower to prevent falls. A textured tile or a slatted wood tray over a concrete floor can provide a nonslip floor.
  •  Installing anti-scald mixing valves to maintain a safe water temperature and volume when there are water pressure changes will prevent burns. Limit the temperature in the tub and shower to 120 degrees.
  • Make the placement of essential items including soaps, shampoos washcloths etc, within reach along with adequate storage at a height accessible to people.
  • The sink should be wheelchair accessible. A wall-mounted sink with no cabinet underneath is good for providing enough led space.
  • Installation of touch or sensor based faucet to save the trouble to using levers.
  •  A lower placed mirror, extra long mirror, or tilt mirror that everyone can use.
  • A higher toilet seat makes it easier to lower, stand, or transfer from a wheelchair/walker to the toilet. Thicker toilet seats can be used to add height to toilet when replacing the toilet is not an option.
  • Installing a bidet may allow for more privacy and good hygiene for folks who find using toilet paper difficult to use for cleaning. It prevents twisting and reaching to get toilet paper or wipe.
  • Good lighting in the bathroom is important in safety. It should be planned to avoid any shadows and create an even lighting. Using natural light as much as possible is ideal. Lower light switches so someone in a wheelchair can access them.
  •  There should be extra light evenly distributed over the entire bathroom to avoid a glare. Dimmers can provide the ability to provide brightness and softness based on users needs.

“Designing a sensitive space needs compassion”

In today’s world of shrinking spaces, the thumb rule is to maximize the use of available space. However, designing a space requires compassion. We as designers cannot ignore human emotions. The joint family concept is still very much alive in India with small adjustments where parents who live far away visit their children often. Similarly, due to increasing our proximity to diseases, thanks to our lifestyle, there is no denial that any requirement can arise anytime. Taking all these facts into consideration, it becomes really necessary for architects and designers to design bathrooms in such a way that are barrier free and accessible to all. It is to be noted that while in west, the concept is being inculcated very well in the living, there is still a long way to go when it comes to India. There are only few brands in India that actually provide such bath accessories/products. Similarly, developers/ property owners should also be made aware to be more sensitive about the issue. Rahul Kher concludes, “I would like to end by stating that, the entire industry needs good designers and lot of good thinkers and great developer’s /property owners in order to update and improve on the design, & planning of the care, safety and comfort delivery to the users.”

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