Safe Shower Features for Universal Design Bathrooms

Jul 22, 2022

Choosing the right safe shower features creates accessible showers and universal design bathrooms that work for everyone’s needs

When most people hear the terms “safe shower” or “universal design,” they think of bathing needs that apply largely to older homeowners. But age is just one aspect of why designing a safe shower is so important.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 61 million American adults (about 26% of the adult population) live with a disability, and the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation says there are 5.5 million wheelchair users in the country. Beyond mobility issues like difficulty walking and climbing stairs, these organizations consider blindness or deafness, cognition issues, and other concerns in their definitions of “disability.”

universal design bathrooms for walk in tubs and showers quiz

Here's the kicker:

A recent report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) found that all of these disability-related issues often lead to “poor housing fit,” meaning that many people who need accessibility features in their homes (like a safe shower) don’t currently have them. Knowing this, and recognizing the variety of challenges that can make showering difficult, is precisely what puts the “universal” in universal design. Adding safe shower features can benefit everyone!

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Safe Shower Features to Add Universal Design

Whether you’re designing a safe shower for yourself or a loved one, there are number of features you can add to improve safety and security. The Improveit team recommends starting from the bottom and working your way up to create a beautiful, safe shower that everyone in your home can use easily.

Low-Threshold Shower Bases

First, consider the type of entry you need for your shower. A low-profile shower base makes stepping into the shower easier for people who may have trouble lifting their feet over a higher edge. If there’s a wheelchair user in your home, choose a roll-in shower base that features a gradual ramp for easy access.

Bright Walls for Better Vision

A wide range of wall colors is available to let you create the shower of your dreams, but keep in mind that darker colors can create unnecessary visual challenges. Universal design showers can help overcome this by selecting light or white shower base and wall color combinations, so everything is easy to see even if the shower door or curtain is closed. (This tip also helps make small bathrooms look bigger!)

Melody M.
Etna, OH
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“I hadn’t been feeling very safe in our master bathroom. I have osteoarthritis in both my knees. I’m here by myself during the day, and I worried about what I would do if I fell so I would only shower while someone else was around. Now I don’t fear it anymore. We previously had a towel bar, and now we have grab bars and a bench. I even saw my husband using the bench – he thinks he doesn’t need it, but he uses it too!”
Carol Y.
Westerville, OH
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“Improveit did a great job installing the whole project for us. I have fibromyalgia and some other issues, so I need a larger shower where I could sit periodically when I needed to. When I’m standing, I want to be able to hold onto something while I’m showering, so the grab bars are really helpful.”
Connie S.
Milton, KY
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“I recommend Improveit for my bath remodels. It was quick and they were clean. Love it every day I step in my showers and feel safe. Thank you.”
Susan A.
Marion, OH
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“My new shower is beautiful and safe. I love the grab bars. They are much higher quality than I have seen in other stores. The installer was always prompt in arriving, his work was fast and I have yet to find any flaws or mistakes.”
Sandra R.
Columbus, OH
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“The entire process was much less stressful than expected. All of the personnel were very aware and compliant with pandemic protocols. The salesman had great ideas for improving our tub & surround area. (Other salespeople for other companies had few samples and seemed rather limited in choices of surrounds.) There were several calls to update us on any possible scheduling delays due to supply-chain issues (covid slow-downs). Our installer and his team were all very professional, courteous, clean, and efficient. From being certain that all underlying areas were perfectly level, to matching the seam lines of the surround, making sure that grab-bars and shelves were in EXACTLY the right place, he worked tirelessly to make it perfect. He and his team made this process as stress-free as possible. I would 100% recommend this company to add to the beauty, efficiency and value of your home.”
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Have a Seat, Safely

Shower seats are among the most popular additions to walk-in showers, and are especially useful for universal design showers. Allowing users to bathe in a seated position, shower benches also provide a convenient place to keep shampoo bottles for people who may have trouble lift their arms to reach higher shelves. Improveit offers shower seats that match every available wall color, as well as padded shower seats for additional comfort, and shower seats that fold away when not in use. Specialty transfer shower seats are also available to make it easy to help move a bather from a mobility device to the shower and back again.

Add Grab Bars Anywhere You Need Them

With mobility, transfer, and balance issues to consider, grab bars are the go-to universal design feature for a truly safe shower. The Improveit design team recommends adding at least one grab bar to your shower, and most of our customers opt for two or more in various places in and around the shower.

Grab bar tips to prevent falls

The best part is, you get to choose exactly where to place your grab bars for the biggest benefit. Many of our customers install grab bars at an angle along one wall of the shower to help them move from sitting to standing positions. Vertical grab bars placed just outside the shower are also very popular.

A NOTE OF CAUTION: Towel bars and soap dishes are not designed to bear weight, and should NEVER be used in place of grab bars. Click here to learn more about how to choose the best grab bar placement for your shower.

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accessible bathrooms include shower seat

Easy Reach Shower Storage

Just like grab bars, the Improveit team can easily place shower shelves and storage caddies at any height to accommodate universal design needs. Ask for your 1-, 2-, or 4-shelf caddies to be placed lower if you or a family member have trouble reaching higher shelves, or if wheelchair users in your home need easier access to shampoos, soaps, etc.

Hand-Held Shower Heads

Sometimes called shower wands or hand showers, hand-held showerheads are a great accessible shower feature. These fixtures are designed with a hose that runs from the wall connection to the showerhead, which rests in an easy-reach, wall-mounted bracket. On some models, that bracket slides up and down a bar to the user’s preferred height. Hand-held showers give bathers the convenience of a showerhead that they can easily use while seated, and are also ideal for situations where caregivers help a loved one bathe.

Shower Rods & Doors

Depending on the size and style of shower you create, and the needs of your household, you’ll finish off your safe shower design with a shower door or a shower rod and curtain. For bathers that that use a wheelchair or other mobility aid inside the shower, a shower rod may work best, as a shower curtain can easily move around these larger items, and make it easy for caregivers to reach in and offer help. Always be sure that the curtain can move completely out of the way when not in use so users don’t get tangled up. Sliding and swing-out shower doors are also available to finish a shower of any type. Remember that the bottom edge of a sliding shower door will add a small piece of track that users will need to step over.

Accessible Showers & Beautiful Design

With a wide range of accessible shower features to choose from, designing a safe shower is easy – and beautiful! Years ago, grab bars, shower seats, and other accessible shower features came in limited styles and often looked institutional or hospital-grade. Not anymore!

Every fixture mentioned here is available in a variety of beautiful colors and finishes so the shower of your dreams can also be the accessible shower of your dreams and meet the needs of everyone in your home. (And don’t underestimate the wipe-clean acrylic walls in your universal design considerations. Low maintenance is another way to make your shower more accessible!)

Ready to start designing? The Improveit team would be honored to help you and your family find out what it’s really like to bathe safely. Reach out today to find out what worry-free bathing and worry-free remodeling are all about!

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