01 Mar Bathroom Equipment
March 1, 2016
Among the emerging trends in bathroom equipment is a new class of fixtures designed to allow quick and easy height and position adjustability. Included in the mix are sinks, toilets, shower chairs, support arms and even lifting units for kitchen items such as cabinets and countertops. While these capabilities are designed primarily to make life easier and safer for people with disabilities, their innovative technology has begun to catch on with architects and owners for a variety of reasons.
For example, the ability to slide a sink along a wall-mounted rail may enable an architect to meet disability codes such as those required by ADA or by state agencies that dictate space requirements for manipulation of a wheelchair in a confined area. In many cases, this enables the architect to design a smaller, more flexible room, which in turn may allow more occupancy units per facility. Or the owner may be able to differentiate his facility more easily by appealing to people with a wider range of physical disabilities, even allowing quick and inexpensive reconfiguration of bathrooms between occupancies.
For the residents themselves, these products offer something they’ve never had before, namely, an alternative that allows a living unit’s basic fixtures to be repositioned to accommodate each resident’s height or mobility requirements. Thus, for example, if an individual is in a wheelchair, the unit’s sink and shower accessories can be easily repositioned to meet the precise height and location requirements of that individual. Even the toilet can be raised and lowered to reach the optimal height for each person. This represents a vast improvement in assistive products designed to enhance safety and convenience for the elderly or disabled. Given today’s rapidly aging population, these products are ideal for individuals who have been struggling with the new reality of living with a physical disability or caring for a disabled or elderly person.
How does adjustability benefit end users?
The ability to reposition wall-mounted fixtures may make it possible for some disabled individuals to transfer themselves onto toilets, for example, thereby contributing to their self-esteem and feelings of self-sufficiency, important considerations for every human being. Further, self-sufficiency is perhaps even more important for individuals who, over time, find themselves unable to perform certain basic tasks without the assistance of another person. A person in a wheelchair, for example, may no longer be able to make an unassisted transfer from chair to toilet due to height differences. Adjusting the toilet’s height to eliminate the differential further reduces dependency on others, ensuring a simple, cost-effective solution that helps enhance self-worth and improve the overall quality of life of users. Other user benefits include:
- Easier access to bathing or seating surfaces for cleaning and sanitation purposes.
- The ability to accommodate the needs of multiple individuals who have different dependencies.
- Empowerment of residents by allowing them to participate in more daily activities.
How do these systems work?
- Height-adjustable Toilets: Height-adjustable toilets are mounted on an adjustable lift system that allows users to easily change a toilet’s elevation by up to approximately 15 inches. The toilet system’s height adjustments are controlled via either a manual hand-crank option or by a hand-held device and an electrically powered actuator. Both options allow the user to precisely adjust the toilet’s height to correspond with the wheelchair’s seat or other requirements. This enables users to transfer without changing levels and simultaneously improves ergonomic positioning for any helpers in the bathroom. The toilet’s height can also be adjusted while the user is seated on the toilet in order to facilitate helper access for sanitation purposes. The electrical adjustment helps many people with sclerosis and muscular atrophy/dystrophy to sit down on and rise from the toilet.
- X-Y-adjustable Bathroom Fixtures: Sinks and other bathroom accessories such as support arms can be mounted on rugged tracks that allow easy adjustment up, down or sideways. Adjustments of fixtures are controlled via simple, easy-to-turn handles and grip locks. Even toilets can be moved up and down. This enables users or maintenance personnel to adapt the layout of a bathroom to suit the varying size or disability requirements of individual users. In turn, adjustability places a high premium on personalized accommodation, particularly in light of the continually changing requirements in the country’s nursing homes and hospital rooms, where no two residents or patients have the same needs or physical capabilities.
Height-adjustable kitchens have broad application potential. For example, movable work surfaces and cabinets are useful in many private and institutional applications, such as assisted living, communal workplaces and child care kitchens, where individuals of varying physical stature must be able to work together simultaneously. Adjustable components such as kitchen countertops and islands are also valuable options in a wide range of private home kitchens, particularly where individuals who are handicapped or in wheelchairs wish to participate in meal preparation and related activities. Typically, three different adjustment methods are available for raising and lowering kitchen components: electric push-button, manual and bracket-mounted. Electric or manual versions are recommended for applications where heights must be adjusted frequently. The bracket-mounted version is used primarily when adjustments are required only infrequently. Built-in safety systems ensure protection against pinching or crushing injuries. Finally, aesthetic covers are used to conceal electric service lines as well as water supply and disposal tubing.
The bottom line: Simply adjust the fixtures to the individual resident’s needs
No longer are owners and operators of assisted living facilities, group homes and similar institutions constrained by rigidly mounted bathroom fixtures and kitchen countertops. When these emerging technologies are creatively applied, living spaces can be adjusted to the individual occupant rather than forcing the individual to adapt to inconveniently located sinks, toilets, counters, support arms, changing tables and other wall-mounted items. The bottom line is a win-win situation for all parties. Residents are gratified by the safety and convenience, while owners and operators are rewarded by being able to offer something unique and imaginative toward solving the issues of elderly and disabled individuals. In addition, architects and room designers now have greater flexibility in laying out rooms to accommodate codes, professional guidelines and individual preferences.