Disabled Bathroom Renovations

Disabled Bathroom Renovations
Architecture & Design

The bathroom is one space in your home where you’re most likely to get injured. For that reason, it’s crucial to make this space as functional as possible and minimize the chances of injuries happening. Whether you’re building a bathroom for people with disabilities or you’re designing the space while keeping in mind the potential mobility issues you or your family members (may) experience, the guidelines are generally the same.

You’ll find many different ways to build a disabled-friendly bathroom, and in the following lines, we’ll discuss all the essential elements and modifications that make a bathroom more accessible.

Leveraging Universal Design While Renovating

The easiest way to renovate your bathroom with accessibility in mind is to have a universal design in mind. Basing your design decisions on universal design means that you’re designing a space that can be accessed by every person, regardless of their abilities, age, size, etc. That doesn’t mean that the bathroom will be functional exclusively for people with impairments, but rather it means that the space is convenient and pleasant to use for everyone.

To achieve this, you’ll need to work with a contractor who's an expert in universal design that combines everything from accessibility to lighting, so you’ll know that the result will be both functional and beautiful.

Planning an Accessible Bathroom

As the saying goes, “A good plan is a job half done”, and the same goes for your disabled bathroom renovation. So, let’s see what you can do during the planning stage that will make the renovation process more straightforward.

Before You Start

Before starting the renovation process, you’ll need to consider the end user’s needs. When planning the renovation, you’ll need to:

  • Establish a budget for the project (it’s a good idea to have 10% more than your initial budget in case you experience any problems as the project continues)
  • Hire an expert (a contractor and a designer specializing in universal design who’ve designed spaces for people with impairments)
  • Have a clear vision (work with your expert so they can create a 3D rendering of what your ideal bathroom looks like)Have an additional bathroom (if you’re planning to stay on the property as you’re renovating, you must have another bathroom that you can use in the meantime)

Modifications for Creating an Accessible Bathroom

Before we dive into the specifics of how you can make your accessible bathroom come to life, let’s first go over the modifications you’ll need to make during the process.

  • Adding grab bars in critical locations (near the shower, toilet, etc.)
  • Widening the doorway (enabling a walker or wheelchair user to pass)
  • Converting your bathtub to a walk-in shower
  • Installing a raised toilet
  • Adding a floating sink (to enable a wheelchair to slide under)
  • Lowering the storage spaces (making it possible for wheelchair users to reach)
  • Installing sensor lights
  • Creating a smooth transition between different types of flooring (tile to hardwood, vinyl, concrete, etc.)

Accessible Bathroom Design

Now that you have a basic understanding of which places you need to be mindful of when doing a disabled bathroom renovation, we need to look at the guidelines and standards that make these spaces accessible for everyone.

Bathroom Layout

There are a few guidelines in terms of bathroom dimensions that you should follow to make your bathroom accessible:

  • A turning circle of 152.5 cm in diameter so a wheelchair can turn around.
  • 75 x 120 cm space from the door to the sink, so it’s easily accessible.
  • The toilet seat should be at least 43 cm off the ground, so it’s easier to transition from the toilet seat to a wheelchair and vice versa.
  • The size of the bathroom should be at least 295 x 165 cm to comfortably accommodate a bathtub, sink, and toilet, and have enough clear floor space for a wheelchair to be able to make a full circle.

Bathroom Doors

The bathroom doors are crucial for making your space more accessible for each person using them. Here are the design principles you should consider:

  • If the bathroom has a straight entry, the door should be at least 80 cm wide to allow for wheelchairs and walkers.
  • If the bathroom has a side entry, the door should be at least 90 cm wide.
  • The bathroom door should open outward, especially in small spaces.
  • The door handle should be a single lever that requires a small amount of force to open with one hand. It’s best to avoid knobs that may be difficult to open for people with dexterity and motor disabilities.

Shower or Bathtub

This area is where most bathroom injuries happen, so it’s important to design it well. For an accessible bathroom renovation, you’ll want to use the following guidelines:

  • Go with a walk-in or roll-in shower without a curb instead of a bathtub.
  • The fold-down shower seats should be elevated at least 43 cm from the floor to ensure an easy transfer from the wheelchair to the shower seat.
  • Handheld shower units are preferred to wall-mounted ones, and the hose should be at least 150 cm long.
  • Choose a pressure-balanced and thermostat-controlled shower valve to prevent scalding.
  • Add dispensers for shower gel and shampoo for easier access.
  • Go with glass doors or walls instead of shower curtains for the shower area.
  • Install safety grab bars for easier shower access and to prevent slipping.
  • Install a hook next to the shower area where you can hang towels.


The sink is another area you should renovate when designing an accessible bathroom, so it’s crucial to pay attention to the following details:

  • Have a clearance under the sink of at least 75 cm to accommodate wheelchair users.
  • The top of the sink should be 85 cm high at most to enable easy access from a seating position.
  • Ensure that there’s at least 75 x 120 cm of space in front of the sink.
  • The faucet should be operable with one hand, so single lever faucets or faucets with a motion sensor are best.
  • The mirror should hang low so a person can see themselves from a seating position.
  • The medicine cabinet should be mounted 100 cm from the floor at most.


The toilet is another area that won’t be useful for a person with a disability if you don’t have accessibility in mind. As you renovate your bathroom, keep the following factors in mind:

  • The access to the toilet should be at least 90 cm wide.
  • The toilet should be wall-mounted and the seat shouldn’t be higher than 43 cm from the floor.
  • Install a 60 cm long grab bar behind the toilet and 80 cm long bars on both sides of the toilet that are 90 cm apart.
  • Add a seat riser if you want to keep the same toilet.
  • Provide enough space around the toilet so wheelchair users can access the toilet and transfer back to their wheelchairs.

Grab Bars

Even though we’ve already discussed grab bars in the previous paragraphs, we should mention some more specific guidelines related to grab bars:

  • Reinforce the walls in your bathroom so they can accommodate grab bars, especially if you’re planning on installing more in the future.
  • Install grab bars next to doors, showers, sinks, and toilets.
  • Purchase grab bars that support at least 130 kg.
  • Grab bars should be mounted between 85 and 90 cm from the ground.
  • Grab bars should be about 3 cm in diameter for easy grip.


Even though the lighting doesn’t seem like a design aspect that you should specifically focus on when renovating an accessible bathroom, that’s not the case. Here are some tips on how you can do this during your renovation:

  • All the light switches and electrical outlets should be accessible from a seating position.
  • Incorporate natural lighting.
  • Use large switches instead of traditional toggle switches.
  • Provide safety in the shower by installing overhead lights.
  • Install smart lighting options that use voice control if possible.

Final Thoughts and Additional Tips

If you apply the principles of universal design, renovating a bathroom to make it accessible shouldn’t be difficult. Before wrapping up this article, it’s important to mention a few tips that didn’t fall into any of the design categories mentioned above:

  • Install textured tiles to ensure that all surfaces are non-slip.
  • Ensure you have enough storage in accessible spaces.
  • Don’t use bath mats since they’re an obstacle for wheelchair users.
  • Plan the space out so two people can be inside the bathroom in case someone needs a bathroom attendant in the future.
  • Use calming colors.
  • Make the most out of your budget by spending more on the essentials, such as the shower unit, sink, toilet, and grab rails, and saving on decor and other non-essentials.