Accessible bathrooms

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In new buildings or renovations, a modern, accessible bathroom is often installed as standard. And it's hardly surprising – a barrier-free bathroom offers greater comfort, freedom of movement and safety. There are no tripping hazards and the architecture focuses on people and their individual needs. In this way, the accessible bathroom also facilitates everyday life as people grow older – and helps people with limited mobility to retain their independence.

What are the optimal dimensions and layout for an accessible bathroom?

When building new bathrooms or completely renovating existing ones, it therefore makes sense to follow the guidelines laid down in the building standard. The building standard distinguishes between two different categories:

  • Accessible buildings: The specifications for accessible bathrooms are aimed at older people.

  • Wheelchair-accessible buildings: The criteria for wheelchair-accessible bathrooms ensure that a bathroom can also be used with a wheelchair – more space must be planned accordingly.

Here you can see an overview of the key criteria according to the building standard:

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Accessible bathrooms: According to the building standard DIN 18040-2, every accessible residence should have at least one bathroom that is considered accessible. The minimum furnishings include a toilet, a washbasin and a shower. The available movement space in front of the toilet, washbasin and bath should be at least 120 x 120 centimetres in each case. To be considered wheelchair accessible, this rises to at least 150 x 150 centimetres of space.

ViCare toilet from Villeroy & Boch

Accessible toilets: The toilet should be at least 20 centimetres away from the wall and other sanitary fittings. To be wheelchair accessible, significantly more movement space is needed: 90 centimetres on one side, 30 centimetres on the other side and a seat height of 46 to 48 centimetres so that the toilet seat and cover can be easily reached from a wheelchair. The depth should be about 70 centimetres. An accessible toilet should be equipped with support handles that help wheelchair users to move from the wheelchair to the toilet. 

ViCare washbasin from Villeroy & Boch

Accessible washbasins: For the washbasin to be considered accessible, it should provide sufficient free space for the occupant's legs. This also means it can be used with the aid of a bathroom stool. Once again, the required dimensions for a wheelchair-accessible bathroom are even larger: The legroom should be 90 centimetres wide and 55 centimetres deep, and the knee space must be 30 centimetres deep. The minimum clearance underneath is 67 centimetres and the washbasin should be installed at a maximum height of 80 centimetres.

ViCare shower from Villeroy & Boch

Accessible showers: The shower is of particular importance, as shower trays with raised edges, which used to be commonplace, can pose a tripping hazard. The shower should have an area of 120 x 120 centimetres and a maximum step height of two centimetres. To ensure that the shower is suitable for wheelchairs, a movement area of 150 x 150 centimetres should be ensured. The taps and fittings should be easy to reach and simple to operate.

Accessible bathrooms from Villeroy & Boch

Bathroom doors: The passage width should be at least 80 centimetres and the passage height 205 centimetres. To ensure that the bathroom is accessible for wheelchair users, the passage width should be 90 centimetres. It must be possible to unlock the bathroom door from the outside if necessary – so that, in the worst case, e.g. a fall or circulatory problems, help can be provided quickly. In addition, the door should open outwards. Sliding doors are also a good option.

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Walls: The walls should be sturdy enough so that handles can be retrofitted and securely attached if required.

Venticello washbasin from Villeroy&Boch

In general, the building standard DIN 18040-2 provides important guidance for accessible buildings. But every person is different – which is why the demands on accessible bathrooms may differ greatly. Elderly people have different needs than people with physical limitations who depend on a wheelchair or the support of relatives.

In this case, customised solutions beyond the building standards can be found in consultation with your specialist installer. In fact, there are many additional options for accessible or disabled bathrooms – for example, height-adjustable toilets for wheelchair users or special lighting for elderly people with failing eyesight.

In some cases, it is also simply not possible to fully implement the recommendations of the building standard for accessible living. If, for example, a bathroom in an old building is being renovated, the required space is often not available. In such cases, it is advisable to make the bathroom as accessible as possible – for example by installing a small, level shower with handrails and a shower stool.

Almost every bathroom can be optimised for use by elderly people via appropriate accessible solutions for the toilet, washbasin and shower. The best approach is to ask your specialist installer for personalised advice on the available options for your bathroom.

Find accessible solutions

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Accessibility – also think about the future

ViCare shower from Villeroy&Boch
ViCare toilet from Villeroy&Boch
ViCare toilet from Villeroy&Boch

It pays to think about tomorrow today – this is especially true when building or renovating bathrooms. In daily life, there is often little time to think about comfortable and safe living in old age. Typically, it is only when the first signs of restricted mobility appear that we suddenly become aware of the problems associated with using a bathroom that has not been designed with accessibility in mind.

For the elderly, remodelling the bathroom is an additional burden that inevitably involves a certain amount of effort and expense. And attempting to "make do" with a bathroom that is not accessible is not a good solution – declining coordination can soon lead to serious falls on wet and slippery floors. Therefore, it is advisable to tackle the accessible bathroom conversion ahead of time.

Benefits of an accessible bathroom

What subsidies are available for accessible bathrooms?

An accessible bathroom is an investment in the future – but it also comes at a cost. If you want to have your bathroom converted, you should check in advance whether you can take advantage of the KfW bank's "Age-Related Conversions" scheme (455-B). If the criteria are met, favourable loans or a KfW grant of up to 10 per cent of the conversion costs – up to a maximum of 5,000 euros – can be claimed. The long-term care insurance scheme also subsidises various conversion measures, such as an entry aid for the bath, an accessible shower or a height-adjustable WC. The cost of aids such as shower stools or shower handles is covered under the statutory health insurance scheme, provided that they are prescribed by a doctor. It is therefore worthwhile finding out about the various funding opportunities before going ahead with a bathroom conversion.