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(by Nancy Pumphrey, Senior Occupational Therapist – St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital Neurological Day Program)

July_2013_-_Bathroom_accessibility__2_Do you have trouble getting through your bathroom door with a mobility device? Most bathroom doors are 23” wide. An 18” wheelchair is 26” wide, and a walker is 24” wide so this can create a problem, but there are solutions. With a little creativity, you can adapt your bathroom to improve access.

One simple solution is to replace the door hinges with fold back hinges. These hinges screw into the door and frame and allow the door to be flush with the frame instead of sticking out. This will give an additional 2” clearance so that you may pass through the doorway. If that does not meet your needs, sometimes it may be easier to remove the door from the hinges as a temporary fix.

Depending on your mobility deficits, you can experiment to determine how to get through a bathroom door. If you use a wheelchair, investigate if renting or buying a different one with a narrower seat width of 16” is an option. Some patients are also able to use a rolling secretary chair to scoot through the door, or you can practice walking sideways with your walker so the doorway is not an obstacle.

A more permanent alternative is enlarging the bathroom doorway to 30–32” wide. You can buy a door, along with the doorframe, at most home improvement stores, and they can also recommend someone to complete the installation. A pocket door or “barn style” sliding door does not take up the floor space needed to open and close a swinging door, however these doors do require clearance within the wall. Be sure that you will not need to attach anything to the wall in front of or behind where the door slides. Even a nail may prevent the door from sliding freely.

A low cost option is replacing the door with a curtain or a tension rod, or you can also use a bedside commode especially at night when falls can be a problem. Lining the bucket of the bedside commode with an absorbent pad may cut down on spills or odor.

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