When designing a walk-in shower facility to suit all mobility needs, easy access is a vital ingredient, but it’s also important to provide comfort and ease of use within the facility itself. The position of support fittings and furniture is essential to ensure that they provide adequate support to perform specific bathing routines. Many people find shower seats extremely useful as a bathroom mobility aid.
Various options are available on the market, including free standing stools or chairs. Some of these have non-slip feet and height adjustable legs. They offer the benefit of being portable, but bear in mind that they take up storage space unless you choose a foldable design. It is vital to ensure that your shower tray has the load-bearing capacity to support the weight of the user as the weight distribution of the three or four stool legs can cause some trays to crack.
A wall-mounted shower seat can avoid this problem. Some also have support legs – in which case the trays still needs a (lesser) degree of load-bearing capacity – but others sustain the weight of the user entirely through the wall brackets. If you choose a wall-mounted seat, seek advice from the installer about the load-bearing suitability of the bathroom wall fabric. Some wall-mounted seats are fixed whilst others offer hinged mechanisms which enable them to be folded against the wall when not in use. With a hinged seat, the lack of portability isn’t a disadvantage as it doesn’t need to be moved anywhere to free up space – it can simply be dropped down into place whenever required to aid mobility. Many bathroom users find this much preferable to carrying and moving a shower stool around. Wall-mounted foldable seats offer the best all-round combination in terms of ease of use, economy of space and minimal weight pressure on the shower tray.
If you require a shower seat to aid mobility, it’s also worth considering whether to install other fittings such as grab rails to support movement to and from the seat. Horizontal rails fixed either side of a shower seat are very useful when pushing up from a sitting position and provide support when lowering. They also help to prevent you sliding off a seat. Installing these rails approximately 20cm above the seat’s height is often a good position to assist standing. If you’re a wheelchair user, holding onto this rail can give you secure support when transferring to the shower seat.
Depending on the design of your shower cubicle, you may be able to enjoy additional support by installing a horizontal rail on the wall opposite the shower seat, positioned at an approximate height of 1m above the floor (providing it can be easily reached from the seat). Alternatively you could install a vertical rail with the lowest end fixed at around 80cm above the floor. The distance between this rail and the front of your shower seat should be no more than 55cm in order to provide adequate support. Bear in mind that these are guidelines based on generic recommendations and building regulations, but you should consider your own personal needs and factors like your height when deciding the precise location of any fittings. Ultimately, you need to determine what set-up works for your personal routine within your particular facility.