I have a problem with current design for accessible spaces. In public spaces such as hotels, airports or restaurants there’s a need for something that’s universal and can accommodate lots of different needs. But isn’t it UGLY?! I’ve been in four and five star hotel rooms where the rooms are gorgeous and stylish and the bathroom is reminiscent of a hospital toilet from the ’70s.
We’ve seen broken and unusable shower seats, so-called ‘accessible bathrooms’ with grab rails out of reach behind the toilet and a bath with no grab rails. We’ve seen low level sinks with a high level mirror so my husband can’t shave without standing. We’ve seen showers with high steps to get into and nowhere to sit or sinks that don’t allow someone to get close to it in a wheelchair. We’ve even been in a hotel that offered an ‘accessible’ room where the wheelchair didn’t fit in the bathroom!
How hard does it have to be to get this right?
In my opinion anyone designing a space like this should be in a wheelchair themselves as they design it (even if its temporary) so that they can experience the issues first hand.
Why does it have to be so hard to find something appealing and functional?
This was the challenge we set ourselves when looking for grab rails in our bathroom. We recently bought the house and the bathroom was already kitted out pretty nicely, with a square “P” shaped shower, square basin and toilet. The basin sits on a vanity unit and is next to the toilet so the husband can hold onto that on one side to get up, but we needed another grab rail on the wall above the toilet roll holder to support his other arm.
I wondered if there were options out there to somehow combine the function of toilet roll holder and grab rail? Turns out there are a few different options. Some of them still look very ‘disabled’ and old fashioned. Some are attached to huge grab rails that swing down from the wall, and the others are just so large it’s obviously a grab rail.
Many hours of surfing the web later we came across a stylish chrome option that mirrors the square bathroom set. It’s from a company called Liberty Hardware in USA and has a short catchy name – The Delta Décor Assist™ Contemporary Toilet Paper Holder with Assist Bar.
It’s compact, square and minimal in design. It’s available in four different colours (if brass is your thing!) . What it’s not is cheap. We paid £60+ with shipping from USA via Amazon.com but it’s absolutely worth every penny. It doesn’t look like a grab bar and when I explain it to visitors they had never even noticed it wasn’t a ‘normal’ loo roll holder. That’s exactly the response I wanted! It’s compact, chrome (matching the other fittings) and is unobtrusive.
It’s also very easy to refill, the lower bar pivots and flips up easily to add the new loo roll (that’s if the husband ever notices it’s empty and refills it!) and easy to reset. (Yeah the loo roll is pointed like you see in a hotel. I’m not that posh really but it does look a bit better in a photo. You know, as good as a loo roll can look in a photo…!)
Find a friendly helper with a big drill to fix it securely and it’ll hold up to about 130kg in weight. (*Disclaimer – Make sure you read the instructions on fitting this correctly so you’re as safe as can be)
There’s lots of options out there, you can get curvy ones, square, semi circular. There’s bound to be one to match your bathroom style.
One of the tricks for finding accessible bathroom fixtures is to use different search terms such as ‘accessible’, ‘inclusive’ ‘handicapped’ (ugly but well used in USA and will bring up some results) ‘independent’ and ‘assisted’, as well as plain old disabled. Also use terms such as ‘grab rail’ ‘grab bar’ or ‘grab handle’.
Some websites that specialise in disabled fixtures and help around the home will offer items VAT free but I have to be honest, some of these sites only specialise in the cheaper white plastic fittings that you see in hospitals so it’s worth looking at these sites and more widely across other sites that don’t specialise in this field to get fair comparison for the product and the price.
Proof that you can get cool stuff to help with your disability. Let me know how you get on with your search!