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Featuring articles from our principal Occupational Therapist, Dr Nicole Grant, members of the therapy team, and guest posts from members of our community.  

Tips for creating a safe and functional bathroom for the blind or visually impaired

Guest Post: Ashley (Disabled Parents)

While the bathroom is one of the smaller rooms in the house, it can still present big hazards and safety issues for people who are blind or visually impaired if it is not set up correctly. Taking special care to follow safety tips can create a safe and warm environment.

Shared bathrooms mean more hazards

Unless you live in a house with several bathrooms, more than likely, the bathroom is a shared space. This means there may be family members leaving towels, puddles of water, bath toys, or other items on the floor that can become tripping hazards. When living with a visually impaired family member, it is very important for the rest of the family to become more aware of dangers and to regularly check the floors for items that could be tripped on.

Open floor plans give freedom of movement

A bathroom with wide walkways is best for someone with a visual impairment. This includes keeping walkways free of things like laundry hampers, shelves, or even garbage cans. In spaces that are narrow, something as simple as an open drawer can become a hazard for someone with limited or no vision.

Replace shower curtains with shower doors

Replacing a shower curtain with a solid shower door can cut down on accidents in the bathroom. It is very easy for someone with a visual impairment to get caught up in a shower curtain and fall. Using a door that the person can feel is open or closed reduces the chances of tripping.

Colours matter

When choosing colours for things like towels, soap dishes, toothbrush holders, and other bathroom items, you should select colours that can be easily identified. Avoid towels that are light in color or too close to the shades of the floor, counters, or walls. This will help people who are visually impaired locate towel racks and watch for a towel accidentally left on the floor. Keep color choice in mind for things like the shower doors as well, so there is a well-defined difference between the walls, bathtub, and door.

 

Another place where color can help is defining the top of the tub if you have a bathtub/shower combo one needs to step into. Something as simple as a bright stripe of wide waterproof tape can alert users to the top of the tub so they can step over it.

Install bright lights and motion sensors

Unless someone is light sensitive, the bathroom should be well lit. Bright lights that fill the entire room with light will help people who are visually impaired avoid hazards. You can also consider installing lights that are triggered by motion to keep all members of the family safe on midnight bathroom runs.

Add user-friendly water fixtures and labels

Using a system of two different handles for hot and cold water can be both positive and negative. While it may be easy at first for the visually impaired to mix up the two dials, it does eventually offer more control. Whether you have one handle or two, clearly labelling or marking hot versus cold is important. If the user can see colors, this can be done with red and blue labels. If the user can’t see colors, braille can be used.

Anchor the bath mats and rugs

Many people use small bath rugs to keep their tile or vinyl floors from becoming slippery, but the rugs themselves can be a hazard if they are not anchored to the floor. The same thing can be said about mats used in the shower. Things like non-stick decals for the bathtub are much safer than suction-cupped bath mats that can slip and move around. Furthermore, adding a bench or chair to a tub or shower reduces the chances for falls, especially if the surrounding surface is slip-proof so that sitting down on and getting up from the seat are hazard-free.

Install soap and shampoo dispensers

Instead of fumbling with multiple bottles of shampoo and other products in the shower, it may be easier to install a dispenser that can be refilled with products in a predictable order. This clears the clutter of too many bottles in the shower and makes it less likely they’ll get mixed up or dropped.

Add grab bars in shower and near toilet

One of the most important things you can do to make your bathroom safer for a visually impaired family member is to install grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet. Grab bars are very helpful and can prevent falls and injuries. They can help with balance, particularly in a slippery shower. Make sure to place grab bars in spots that are easily accessible.

Bathroom safety is crucial for those who are visually impaired, particularly when the bathroom is shared with other family members. When creating a safe bathroom environment, it’s essential to think about space and color, and you need to consider lighting, water fixtures, bath mats, dispensers, and grab bars as well.

 

Image by MikesPhotos via Pixabay