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Universal design for bathrooms

What do people mean when they refer to Universal Design in a bathroom?

Jurow designed bath





The high-styled bathroom at right is a showcase of universal design: featuring a curbless shower, dual grab bars, dual shower heads and controls, as well as a built-in bench with its own shower control.







Who needs a universal design for their bathroom, and why?

"Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all peoples ... without need for adaptation," according to Ron Mace, one of the movement's foremost leaders. In other words, it is design accessible to all people (hence, universal), regardless of ability, capability, age or gender.

Having a bathroom that incorporates the aspects of universal design is not something that one only finds in a senior citizen's home. It is not unsightly, and it is not more expensive.

Now that we have determined what it is not, let's fine tune what it is.

Every bathroom that is designed today incorporating universal design has grab bars in and/or next to the shower. These come in beautiful and various finishes to match the other hardware in the bathroom. They range in size starting at 12 inches long. Do not use towel bars as grab bars. They are not anchored into the wall in the same manner as grab bars and often will not hold the weight of an individual. Everyone, old and young, loves the assistance of grabbing hold of a strategically placed bar in a slippery area.

Curbless showers are now all the rage because they look sleek and contemporary. The shower floor is level so the water drains appropriately, and the convenience of not stepping over a curb is a luxury for the able-bodied bather as well as the disabled.

universally designed bath

Most well-designed showers today incorporate a built-in bench with a hand-operated shower accessible from a seated position, as seen in the San Francisco bath at right. This is a great convenience for washing one's hair or shaving one's legs. Men, women and children all enjoy this Universal Design feature.

Toilet seats at 17.5 inches high, as seen here, are now the norm. They are more comfortable for everyone and are available in a variety of styles and colors.

So, who needs a universal design bathroom?

The real question is, who doesn't?


Darlene Jurow, ASID, CID, is  an interior designer and proprietor of Jurow Design Associates in Piedmont, CA.

Photos by Misha Bruk Studios.

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