Walk-In Showers for Accessible Bathrooms: Enhancing Safety and Convenience

Bathroom with walk-in shower equipped with shower bench and hand-held shower head

Moving isn’t the only option if you want to remain in the Western Washington area as you get older. An adaptive living renovation can make your home safer and more comfortable if you’re planning to age in place.

The Benefits of Walk-In Showers for Accessibility

Walk-in showers are an increasingly popular choice for homeowners looking to enhance the accessibility and functionality of their bathrooms. Here are some of the key benefits of incorporating a walk-in shower in your home:


  1. Eliminates the need for stepping over high thresholds: One of the most significant advantages of walk-in showers is the absence of a high threshold or curb. This curbless design allows for easy entry and exit, reducing the risk of trips and falls, especially for individuals with mobility issues or those using mobility aids like walkers or wheelchairs.
  2. Provides ample space for movement: Walk-in showers typically offer a more spacious and open layout compared to traditional shower enclosures. This extra space allows for easier navigation and accommodates the use of mobility aids, making it ideal for individuals with limited mobility or those who require assistance from a caregiver.
  3. Enhances safety with grab bars and non-slip surfaces: Walk-in showers can be equipped with strategically placed grab bars and slip-resistant flooring materials to provide added stability and support. These safety features help prevent slips and falls, offering peace of mind for both the user and their loved ones.
  4. Offers a modern and stylish aesthetic: In addition to their practical benefits, walk-in showers can also contribute to a sleek and contemporary bathroom design. With a wide range of materials, finishes, and design options available, you can create an accessible shower that seamlessly blends with your personal style and complements your home’s overall aesthetic.

Designing Your Accessible Walk-In Shower

When planning your walk-in shower for accessibility, there are several key factors to consider to ensure that the space meets your unique needs and preferences. Here are some expert tips to guide you through the design process:

Choosing the Right Size and Layout

The size and layout of your walk-in shower will depend on the available space in your bathroom and your specific accessibility requirements. Consider the following factors when selecting the appropriate dimensions and configuration:
  • Minimum dimensions: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommends a minimum clear floor space of 30 inches by 48 inches for a transfer shower and a minimum clear floor space of 60 inches in diameter for a roll-in shower. However, if space allows, opting for a larger shower area can provide added comfort and maneuverability.
  • Shower shape: Walk-in showers can be designed in various shapes, such as rectangular, square, or even curved. Consider which shape best suits your bathroom layout and provides the most efficient use of space.
  • Entrance width: To accommodate wheelchair access or the use of other mobility aids, the shower entrance should have a minimum clear width of 32 inches. If possible, a wider entrance of 36 inches or more can offer even greater ease of access.

Incorporating Essential Accessibility Features

To ensure that your walk-in shower is truly accessible and safe, it’s important to incorporate certain key features into your design. Some essential elements to consider include:
Curbless Shower

Grab Bars

Grab bars provide crucial support and stability for individuals with mobility challenges. When installing grab bars in your walk-in shower, keep the following guidelines in mind:
  • Placement: Grab bars should be installed on at least two walls of the shower, typically on the back wall and the sidewall nearest the shower entrance. They should be positioned at a height between 33 and 36 inches from the shower floor.
  • Size and style: Grab bars should have a diameter between 1.25 and 1.5 inches and be able to support a minimum weight of 250 pounds. They can be found in various styles and finishes to match your bathroom’s decor.

Shower Benches

A shower bench provides a safe and comfortable place to sit while bathing, which is especially beneficial for individuals with limited mobility or stamina. When incorporating a shower bench into your walk-in shower, consider the following:
  • Built-in vs. removable: Shower benches can be built-in as part of the shower structure or removable for added flexibility. Built-in benches offer a more seamless and permanent solution, while removable benches can be easily added or removed as needed.
  • Size and placement: The shower bench should be at least 17 to 19 inches deep and the height should be customized to fit the person or people who will use the shower and to provide adequate support and comfort. It should be placed in a location that allows for easy transfer from a mobility aid and does not obstruct the shower entrance or water flow.

Slip-Resistant Flooring

Selecting the right flooring material is crucial for preventing slips and falls in your walk-in shower. Some slip-resistant flooring options include:
  • Textured tile: Tiles with a textured or matte finish provide better traction than smooth, glossy tiles. Look for tiles with a slip-resistance rating of 0.42 or higher for optimal safety.
  • Non-slip mats or adhesive strips: If you prefer a smooth tile surface, you can enhance slip resistance by adding non-slip mats or adhesive strips to the shower floor. These products are available in various colors and patterns to match your bathroom’s style.
Epoxy or grit coating: For a more permanent solution, you can apply an epoxy or grit coating to your shower floor. These coatings create a textured surface that provides excellent slip resistance and durability.

Accessible Shower Controls and Fixtures

In addition to the layout and safety features of your walk-in shower, it’s important to select shower controls and fixtures that are easy to use and accommodate a range of mobility needs. Consider the following options:

Hand-Held Shower Heads

Hand-held shower heads offer greater flexibility and control for individuals with limited mobility. They can be used while sitting on a shower bench or standing, and they allow for easier rinsing of hard-to-reach areas. Look for hand-held shower heads with features like:

  • Multiple spray settings
  • Long, flexible hoses
  • Ergonomic grips
  • Easy-to-use controls

Thermostatic Mixing Valves

Thermostatic mixing valves help regulate water temperature and prevent scalding, which is especially important for individuals with sensory impairments or reduced reaction times. These valves automatically adjust the water temperature to a preset level, ensuring a safe and comfortable showering experience.

Lever-Handle Controls

Lever-handle controls are easier to grasp and operate than traditional round knobs, making them a more accessible option for individuals with limited dexterity or strength. When selecting lever-handle controls for your walk-in shower, look for models with a smooth, easy-to-grip surface and a clear visual indicator of the hot and cold settings.

Wheelchair accessible shower

Walk-In Shower Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of a walk-in shower for accessibility?
Walk-in showers offer numerous benefits for accessibility, including the elimination of high thresholds, ample space for movement, enhanced safety features like grab bars and non-slip surfaces, and a modern, stylish aesthetic.
When selecting the size of your walk-in shower, consider factors such as the available space in your bathroom, ADA minimum dimension recommendations (30″ x 48″ for transfer showers, 60″ diameter for roll-in showers), and your specific accessibility needs. Opting for a larger shower area can provide added comfort and maneuverability.
The key features of an accessible walk-in shower include a curbless entry, grab bars for stability, a shower bench for seating, slip-resistant flooring, hand-held shower heads, thermostatic mixing valves for temperature control, and lever-handle controls for easy operation.
Grab bars should be installed on at least two walls of the shower (back wall and sidewall nearest the entrance) at a height of 33-36 inches from the shower floor. Shower benches can be built-in or removable and should be placed in a location that allows for easy transfer from a mobility aid without obstructing the shower entrance or water flow.
The best materials for a slip-resistant shower floor include textured or matte-finish tiles with a slip-resistance rating of 0.42 or higher, non-slip mats or adhesive strips, and epoxy or grit coatings that create a textured surface for added traction.

Commonly Used Terms in Shower Accessibility

Curbless EntryEliminates the need for stepping over high thresholds, reducing the risk of trips and falls
Grab barsProvides support and stability for individuals with mobility challenges, typically installed on at least two walls of the shower
Shower BenchOffers a safe and comfortable place to sit while bathing, beneficial for individuals with limited mobility or stamina
Slip-Resistant FlooringPrevents slips and falls, options include textured tiles, non-slip mats, or epoxy coatings
Hand-held shower headAllows for greater flexibility and control, ideal for those with limited mobility
Thermostatic Mixing ValveRegulates water temperature to prevent scalding, essential for individuals with sensory impairments or reduced reaction times
Lever-Handle controlsEasier to grasp and operate than traditional round knobs, suitable for those with limited dexterity or strength

Is an accessible Walk-In Shower for You?

Creating an accessible walk-in shower in your bathroom is an investment in your safety, comfort, and independence. By incorporating curbless designs, grab bars, shower benches, slip-resistant flooring, and user-friendly controls, you can transform your shower into a space that meets your unique needs and supports your quality of life. With careful planning and attention to detail, your walk-in shower can seamlessly blend accessibility and style, ensuring that you can enjoy a safe and relaxing bathing experience for years to come.

When embarking on your accessible bathroom remodel, it’s essential to work with experienced professionals who understand the unique challenges and requirements of designing for accessibility. At Dickey’s Remodel & Repair, our team of certified aging-in-place specialists (CAPS) and universal design experts are dedicated to creating beautiful, functional, and inclusive spaces that support the diverse needs of our South Puget Sound clients.

If you’re ready to transform your bathroom with a walk-in shower or explore other accessible design solutions, contact us today to schedule a consultation. Let us help you create a space that prioritizes your safety, independence, and well-being, without compromising on style or comfort.

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