Everyone can benefit from universal design. The concept is defined as the design of products and environments that can be used by all people—to the greatest extent possible—without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Incorporating these ideas results in buildings and spaces that are both accessible to older people and people with disabilities as well as young people and people without disabilities.
When it came time to remodel this spacious bathroom in Scottsdale, Arizona, the homeowners in their 70s knew they wanted to make changes that were both aesthetically pleasing and practical, so the space would accommodate them beautifully for the rest of their lives.
The challenge? The clients didn’t want to change the bathroom’s basic configuration, as that could require the added headache of moving plumbing. Even so, they wanted a larger shower and plenty of natural and artificial light. They did not want support bars installed yet.
The designer on the project—Bonnie J. Lewis, Allied ASID, Assoc. IIDA, CAPS, and founder of 55+ TLC Interior Design, LLC—says being proactive when designing spaces is a must. “Hire a qualified universal design professional to ensure your home is safe and prevent accidents or injury before they occur,” she says. Having a space that incorporates universal design ensures it will accommodate people of all ages and abilities. The NAHB echoes this sentiment, noting that universal design allows all kinds of different people to enjoy the same home, enjoying it even if their needs change drastically in the future.
This Arizona bathroom also stands out for its other great features, including eco-friendly elements like low-VOC paint and not one but two Toto Washlets, which eliminate the need for toilet paper. The bathroom was completed in late 2015.
Zero threshold doorways
Doorways that have no thresholds or are flat or very low. Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to navigate through a doorway and prevent tripping.
A “visitable” home is free of architectural barriers that make it difficult for non-disabled people to accommodate older relatives or friends who need basic accessibility. A visitable home has:
- At least one zero-step entrance approached by an accessible route on a firm surface no steeper than 1:12, proceeding from a driveway or public sidewalk
- Wide passage doors
- At least a half-bath/powder room on the main floor
Jack and Jill
This usually refers to a bathroom with two entrances and features like double sinks and a toilet outside the shower in a private room within the bathroom. Many Jack and Jill bathrooms are actually shower rooms. In this original bathroom, there were not only double sinks, but double toilets outside the shower and a large whirlpool tub in the main room. As built, the original “Jack and Jill” shower with dual showerheads had narrow doors on either side across from built-in cabinetry, which made the homeowners feel crowded and closed in. The two adjacent water closets had narrow doors and the spaces were small—they’d be inaccessible by a walker or wheelchair. Using the same footprint, a larger, barrier-free shower was created by eliminating the existing whirlpool tub.
Easy-grip door handles and rocker light switches
Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for anyone with poor hand strength, but who wouldn’t like them? Just think about all those times you’ve tried to open the door or turn on the light when your hands were full. Problem solved.
Doorways that are 32 to 36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through, give everyone plenty of room to move comfortably, and also allow you to move large items in and out if needed.
Also referred to as a barrier-free shower, a curbless shower is level with the floor that leads to it. You have no edge to step over to enter the shower, eliminating a fall hazard as well as an entry barrier for wheelchairs. In the Scottsdale project, Lewis replaced two smaller shower doors with one 36-inch-wide front entry shower door. Both water closets were also enlarged for accessibility by eliminating two unused storage areas and installing 36-inch-wide doors with lever handles. This enabled the plumbing for the toilets to remain where it was, while only having to move the shower plumbing 12 inches to accommodate the new shower depth.
Visit 55+ TLC Interior Design, LLC: 55plustlc.com.