A bathroom that works for everyone

Yvonne Orgill of the Bathroom Manufacturer’s Association offers some advice on designing a bathroom to meet the needs of all ages and abilities, without compromising on style

Bathing is an integral part of life. Ensuring cleanliness and good health is fundamental to people’s lifestyles. Sometimes however, especially for those in our families who are less able, bathing can become a barrier to independence. So how can the use of inclusive design help you create a bathroom environment in your self-build project which can be accessed and used by people, regardless of age, gender and ability, without compromising on style?

For those of you who haven’t come across the term ‘inclusive design’, The British Standards Institute defines it as: “The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible”. Inclusive design ensures high quality products and fixtures maintain stunning design elements, providing you with a refreshing and relaxing bathing experience as well as ensuring products work for all ages and abilities.

Bathroom manufacturers have been considering inclusive design in the development of their products for some time. These days, bathroom products encompass every conceivable design element to meet the needs of all bathrooms – from the smallest to the most opulent. With one in 10 people in the UK registered as having a disability, though, bathroom manufacturers have been investing in the design of sanitary and bathing arrangements for ease of access and use for everyone.

At the planning and design stage of your project, remember to take into account the needs of other family members and visitors. Also be mindful of your bathroom’s physical structure – elements such as doors, windows and radiators can be changed, but aligning your products with the soil pipe and drainage might be more problematic. Pay attention to the details, like not placing WCs too close to a radiator. Factors such as accessibility, space and budget will have strong influences on the solution adopted for your particular installation.

Design considerations

With careful planning and the right product there is no reason why your new bathroom design cannot meet your every aspiration as well as the needs of your family. Choosing the right products for your bathroom is not about sacrificing design style; it’s about considering factors like ability and requirements of a range of users as well as where you locate the bathroom. Do you have small children – who may be at risk of scalding? Or are your needs

geared more towards the elderly or even a disabled member of your family?

If, for example, you have to consider the needs of wheelchair users, you may want to look at installing a wet room. Not only does a wet room create a luxurious bathing space, it has practical benefits too for the elderly or disabled. At design stage, ensure your wet room doors are wide enough to take a wheelchair and check the door motion will not impede the movement of a wheelchair. In extreme cases of disability, the installation of equipment like hoists will need to be carefully thought through.

Assistance with movement in your bathroom or wet room can be achieved using grab rails. For the visually impaired, rails can be installed with high contrast colours to make them stand out from the surrounding wall finishes and furniture. Grab rails need to be firmly fixed and load bearing.

The breadth of style choice for baths to luxuriate in is endless. However, if access to a bath is a problem for anyone in your family, consider installing one with low sides. Walk-in baths, with doors, allow for much easier access for those less confident climbing over the bath rim. For flooring and shower tray surfaces, use slip-resistant surfaces to minimise the risk of slips and trips. When it comes to taps and shower controls, consider replacing conventional products with lever-operated controls for easy operation. Installing a thermostatic control decreases the risk of scalding and for the visually impaired, shower controls operated by touch buttons with tactile coding or illuminated controls can be fitted.

When it comes to sanitaryware, a wall- hung WC improves access and manoeuvrability and makes cleaning easier. Bear in mind some people with disabilities often use products in a bathroom to lean against or to hold themselves upright. These should therefore be very firmly fixed against load-bearing walls. Speak to your

installer and product manufacturer for more advice. And ensure your design specifies products which carry the CE Mark to ensure they are fit for purpose. As a self-builder, you need to be aware that Approved Document M Section 5 of the Building Regulations applies for inclusive design in your project, whether it’s a one-off or a larger project. Make sure your architect is aware of the code of practice for inclusive design as part of ‘BS 8300-2. Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment. Part 2. Buildings’.

As part of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ commitment to inclusive design, Stephen Hodder, past president of the Institute said, “The RIBA is proud to be part of the Government and construction industries’ drive to create inclusive and accessible environments for everyone. Architects, construction professionals and their clients need collectively to have the skills to deliver on this shared pledge. RIBA is committed to ensuring that inclusive design is part of an architect’s education portfolio and professional development.”

Yvonne Orgill is CEO at the Bathroom Manufacturer’s Association