The concept of universal design is one where an environment or area, such as a shower, is accessible by anyone regardless of age, physical ability, or size. There are a few things to consider when creating a universal shower that is easy to use for everyone from the kids to the grandparents.
You should have ample space inside your universal shower for someone to get around with a wheelchair or a walker. If your bathroom is small, you may want to consider making it into a space that can be wet in its entirety. This can be done by adding an extra drain in the floor and sloping the floor toward the drain. The bathroom would have to be made into one open space without walls that separate the shower, sink, and toilet.
If your bathroom is large, however, an ideal size for the shower is at least 3.5 by 5 feet.
Angled or Curved Walls
Having walls that are angled or curved helps to keep the water in the shower and create privacy for showers with no door.
No Curb Entry
To create easy access for people in a wheelchair or with a walker, there should be no curb into the shower. However, there are compressible plastic strips that can be placed on the floor at the shower's entry. They can be easily rolled over with a wheelchair or a walker. These strips don't create a hazard as far as tripping is concerned and they help to hold the water in the shower.
A flat finish tile will create a non-slip surface. Tile should extend from the floor all the way up the shower walls and can continue even onto the ceiling. Adding accents to your tile can be visual cues for people to see where things are.
You should have ample lighting in your shower. Make sure that the lighting is situated in a place not easily blocked by the person taking a shower.
Grab bars should be placed at the shower entry and at different places within the shower to help prevent slips and falls. They should also be placed at different heights to accommodate a wide range of people.
A shower seat is useful for people who are unable to stand for long periods of time. When the shower seat is not in use by an individual it can serve as an extra storage place.
If a shower seat would be in your way, you can also create a recessed seat or install a fold-up seat. Many acrylic shower inserts have seats that are built-in.
Wall niches are a convenient place to put your shower products so they are up off the floor away from people's feet. The niches should be placed low enough to be accessible from the shower seat or by children. It is a good idea to have at least two of them to accommodate different heights.
A handheld shower head is useful for everyone. It should be mounted fairly low on the wall so that it can be reached whether you are sitting or standing.
With this guide to universal shower design, you are well prepared to begin planning your own. After, you can relax in your new tub!