17 December 2019
When it comes to adapting bathrooms for visually impaired users, there are five key points that must always be considered:
4. Contrast – Texture & Colour
Although the latter four focus purely on design elements, education is first and foremost. Bathrooms are one of the highest-risk areas in the home, and it’s crucial that the risk they pose for the visually impaired – and how to safely adapt to that risk – is fully understood.
Visual impairment is classed as a limitation of one or more functions of the eye or visual system that inhibits vision and cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses.
Around 1 in 30 UK residents (2.2 million) live with some form of sight loss, according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Of this figure, approximately 360,000 are registered with their local authority as blind or partially sighted.
An ageing population and an increase in conditions that can contribute to sight loss, such as obesity and diabetes, means we can expect to see these figures increase to 2.8 million by 2030, and 4 million by 2050 - if nothing changes.
Above all, adapting a bathroom for the visually impaired needs to focus on accessibility. Whatever type of bathroom you have – whether an accessible wet floor shower or mobility wet room – there should be no steps or lips to reduce the risk of a trip or fall, especially for those with impaired vision.
Similarly, the incorporation of smart bathroom technology can help greatly with regards to making a bathroom accessible for all.
Motion sensor thermostatically controlled taps not only eliminate the risk of scalding, but also make turning the fixture on and off easier. You could also consider a motion sensor flush on the toilet, so you can avoid having to locate a handle, cord or flush plate when finished.
Smart showers can now also be installed to incorporate voice activation, completely removing any requirement to locate the digital dial when you want to turn the shower on or off.
Decluttering your bathroom and ensuring walkways are kept clear with no obstructions is essential. This includes removing mats and rugs, which can easily become a trip hazard.
Instead, incorporate storage to tidy away bathroom amenities. Or, if you prefer to leave essential items out, then add some recessed shelving so that they’re out of the way and therefore can’t easily be caught and knocked over.
Niches and shelves can then be further highlighted with spotlights or downlights, which we’ll cover in more detail under the illumination section.
Once you’re in the habit of putting everything away, make sure you keep things in the same place so you know where everything is, making it easier to locate the next time you need it.
Using contrast in texture and colour is another way to help adapt a bathroom for the visually impaired.
Used to highlight key areas, we’d advise using contrasting colours and textures when applying floor and wall coverings, to help those with impaired vision easily navigate between fixtures and fittings.
For example, using a dark, textured, non-slip, floor tile to create a walkway or path can help map out a route, and more importantly, through noticing the clear change underfoot, notify a user should they venture off course.
Similarly, we would strongly advise against using chrome fittings, or anything of a reflective nature, i.e. glass, as this can trick the eye to thinking something is either nearer or further away than it actually is. Instead, choose a matte effect for a non-shiny finish and a colour that is in conflict with the main fixture i.e. a black matte basin tap, installed on a crisp white basin.
This approach when creating a bathroom adaptation for the visually impaired can be incorporated throughout your accessible bathroom design, from contrasting colours of towels through to the texture of soap dispenser accessories.
Finally, the last of the five key points to consider when adapting your bathroom is illumination. Using contrasting colours, the overall space should be bright and well lit.
Spotlights, downlights and floor lights can be used to enhance and highlight specific fixtures and fittings, making them easily identifiable, whether above a basin or in a niche. Similarly, LED colour and light technology can be incorporated to make the overall bathroom safer and easier to use, especially when it is used to help differentiate between temperature controls.
Paying careful attention to these five areas will give you a foundational understanding of what you need to do to ensure your bathroom is suitable for safe and easy use by a visually impaired user. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
More Ability, part of the Passmore Group, is Yorkshire’s only 5* rated bathroom adaptation company. Specialising in accessible, mobility and disabled bathroom solutions we are extremely proud of the exceptional service we continuously deliver from design right through to installation and after care. Whether you want a future proofed solution or require a more specialist adaptation in order to remain independent at home More Ability can help create a safe space to bathe for you or your loved ones.