Kohler Design Center, offering "hands on" universal design
training to 150,000 participants each year. The universal bathroom
addresses a lifetime of needs, the future of each visitor to the
Kohler Design Center as well as the future of interior design and
architecture. It responds to the diversity of our population, and
our changing needs in each season of life.
we design for the average user, we accommodate only a few people
well. Universal design acknowledges that one size does not fit all,
and that a bathroom must meet the needs of children, tall people,
wheelchairs users, and adults of shorter stature. It accommodates
a person who uses an assistant, a walker, a scooter or a stroller.
It addresses changes in hearing and vision and offers older people
increased lighting levels, lower ambient noise levels, ergonomically
designed products and safety features accommodating reduced reaction
times. Most importantly, it prevents institutionalization by facilitating
home health care and "aging in place."
design is also invisible, never stigmatizing the user or pointing
out their physical differences. Listed below are some of the features
that have been visually integrated into the design:
Turn-around Space: (shown by a graphic in the floor). A 60-in by
60-in turn-around space provides enough room to maneuver with strollers,
scooters, crutches, canes, walkers and guide dogs.
Transfer Space: Clear floor space adjacent to the water closet allows
parents room to help children. Attendants use the space to help
older family members, and people in wheelchairs use the space to
transfer to the water closet.
Lavatory Area: The lavatory and mirror are installed outside of
the shower area to keep the mirror from fogging or being sprayed
by the hand-held shower. For children in wheelchairs a 36 by 48-in
clear floor space extends under the lavatory. Children actually
need more room to maneuver than adults who only need a 30 by 48-in
clear floor space. A vanity stool can be used in this space by ambulatory
family members who prefer to sit while using the lavatory. A lightweight
stool on legs with glides is more stable than a stool on casters.
Adjustable Height Lavatory: With this installation, the counter
can be adjusted between 25-in and 42-in a.f.f. to meet the needs
of tall users, adults of shorter stature, children, and seated users.
The flexible waste and supply are positioned to prevent burns. There
are no sharp or abrasive surfaces below the lavatory which could
injure a seated user. Clearance for wheelchair footrests extends
the full depth of the lavatory. For people with allergies or chemical
sensitivities, solid surface vanity tops are preferable to laminates
adhered to press board or particle board since both may offgas formaldehyde.
The horizontal finishes were chosen in lighter colors to increase
the ambient light levels to improve visual acuity. For people with
vision differences, the edge of the lavatory area is identified
by a contrasting chrome bar. The bar also provides support for standing
users, a grip to reposition a wheelchair, and a place to hang towels.
Lavatory Controls: The levers can be easily controlled with one
hand. They are cued with large markings in red and blue to identify
water temperature. Aerating nozzles on taps reduce ambient noise
levels, and the water pressure can also be reduced to further quiet
the flow. Quieter faucets serve people with a wide range of hearing
abilities. People with speech differences who need to be clearly
heard and people with reduced vision who depend more on their sense
of hearing also appreciate lower ambient noise levels.
Mirrors: The mirror at 40-in a.f.f. can be used by a seated user
or an adult of shorter stature. A tilted mirror should not be specified
because it distorts the image of the user.
Removable Cabinets: Each cabinet under the counter is designed as
a freestanding unit that is totally removable. Removable cabinets
will also make the home easier to sell by offering access to a wider
market, including people who use mobility aids. A movable cabinet
under the sink can serve as a cart between the counter and tub or
toilet, perhaps to store equipment for the bowel and bladder program.
When the cabinet is moved out, the space under the counter is clear
for seated users and the top of the cart can serve as extra counter
space. The cabinet has locking casters and a top rail to prevent
items from sliding off. Dividers have been added to the cabinet
for people who are blind who need a small place for everything.
Each storage area is labeled so sighted people will put things back
correctly. Medications are stored in a locked drawer, within reach
of wheelchair users but not accessible to children. On all drawers,
C grip handles are horizontal and centered.
Toilet and Shower Grab Bars: Grab bars are installed at a height
of 33-36-in a.f.f. on all sides of the roll-in shower. For the easiest
approach to the toilet, grab bars are located behind the toilet
and on one side. Grab bars should not chip, and they cannot have
sharp or abrasive edges. They must not rotate within their fittings.
A textured finish is applied for a sure grip.
Bathtub Grab Bars: A grab bar is often used by bracing the forearm
between the bar and the wall for support. For this reason, install
the grab bar exactly 1 1/2-in from the wall or the entire arm could
slip through the opening. One horizontal grab bar should be installed
at the foot of the tub when a tub seat is used at the head. Two
horizontal grab bars are placed on the long wall: one 9-in above
the tub and the other 34-in a.f.f.
Shelving: Upper shelves should be of tempered glass or clear plastic
to make the contents more visible by children, wheelchair users,
or adults of shorter stature. Adjacent to the shelves, four heights
of hooks should be offered.
Accessible Shower: A shower is quicker, easier, and safer to use
than a bathtub. (See Tables 12-4 and 8-2) This shower can be used
from a shower wheelchair or by a standing user. A corner shower
open on two sides allows access from more than one direction. The
wheel-in shower floor must be sloped rather than curbed, since a
curb may block wheels or become a tripping hazard. A 2% slope to
the drain is sufficient; a steeper slope makes it too difficult
to maneuver a shower wheelchair or gurney. The many joints on the
ceramic mosaic floor tile reduce slippage.
Shower Control: The system provides temperature and surge controls
to provide a safe flow of water which can be set to a temperature
which will not burn a child if accidentally bumped. The pressure-balancing
feature prevents a surge of hot water which could burn a person
with sensation limitations.
Hand-held Shower Adjacent to the Toilet: The fixture is ideal for
use from a shower wheelchair or for cleanup after using the toilet.
It can also be clipped to an adjustable-height bracket for use as
a conventional shower by a tall standing user, person of shorter
stature, or a child. The vertical adjustment does not obstruct the
grab bars. The valve will not catch the shower hose and requires
only one hand to regulate water flow and set the desired temperature.
Towel Bars: are offered in four heights and should be reinforced
to withstand emergency use as grab bars. Bathroom walls should be
reinforced floor-to-ceiling with 3/4-in plywood or with wood blocking
installed between the studs.
Shower Wheelchair: After one transfer to a shower wheelchair, the
user can roll into the shower, under the lavatory, or over a toilet.
Multiple transfers to a seat in the shower or to the water closet
are not required. With the wheels locked over the toilet, the chair
can also be used by a standing person with strength limitations
who needs an elevated toilet seat with arms. There is a gap between
the two seats and an opening in the front for digital manipulation
or to empty a leg bag. Shower wheelchair storage is also discreetly
Shower Curtain: Plan showers with curtains, not doors which take
up floor space. Ceiling-mounted shower curtains have a clean appearance,
especially when they curve around two sides of the shower.
Shower Caddie: To prevent soap, shampoos, and accessories from slipping
out of reach, choose a caddie which drains easily and will not rust.
A second caddie should be installed at a height for children or
people of shorter stature.
Bathtub: The bathtub should have a gently sloping flat (not rounded)
bottom for stability. The floor of the tub must be slip-resistant.
The handles can be grasped for entry or exit. The color contrasts
from the surroundings to improve visual acuity, and the vertical
stripe visually "bends" at the water depth for people
with vision limitations.
Bathtub controls: Choose a lever-type faucet and drain control for
easy operation. Controls must be installed toward the approach side.
Bathtub Seat: A soak in the bathtub relieves pain for many people,
but standard bathtub design can make it difficult to get in and
out. The seat is installed at wheelchair height, but a standing
user can also transfer from it. Install the edge of the seat flush
with the top of the tub to make it easy to slide slowly into the
tub from the seat, using the adjacent grab bars.
Hand-held Shower Adjacent to the Tub: This shower can be used from
the seat for a quick clean-up, to shave legs, wash hair, or by people
who do not have the strength to lower themselves into the tub. It
helps others with washing and rinsing while bathing, and it can
also be used to bathe a child in a child seat or on a bathing table.
Toilet: An elongated toilet installed at a 17-in height is easier
to use when transferring or aligning with the shower wheelchair.
A wheelchair user can also transfer directly at this height, and
the flush lever is on approach side. The quiet toilet serves people
with a wide range of hearing abilities. People with speech differences
who need to be clearly heard and people with reduced vision who
depend more on their sense of hearing also appreciate lower ambient
noise levels. For a quieter water flow, specify pipes with as large
a cross section as possible.
Toilet Seat: The flat lid is more comfortable to lean against than
one that is crowned or dished. The toilet seat is securely installed,
but it can always be replaced by an elevated seat if necessary.
The seat must not be sprung to return to a lifted position, but
it should remain up independently when raised. Men with hemiplegia
or one hand do not have a free hand to hold up the toilet seat while
using the toilet.
Toilet Tissue Dispenser: One dispenser must be at least 19-in a.f.f.
and yet low enough so that grab bars do not interfere with its use.
It is installed 7 to 9-in in front of the toilet. The toilet tissue
holder must permit continuous paper flow and be usable with one
hand. Dispensers must be avoided that might require users to reach
into a hole to initiate paper flow, and no dispenser should have
a sharp or serrated edge. A second tissue dispenser should be provided
for a constant supply, and it has been lowered use by for children
(2 to 6-in above the toilet seat). The cover protects the tissue
from the hand-held shower.
about consulting universal design services: Cynthia@AgingBeautifully.org