Universal Design Tailors Remodeling For Special Needs

picture: universal desgin bathroom, accessible

Remodeling for a Better Life

Professional remodelers know how to incorporate style, form and function to improve a family’s day-to-day lifestyle. This was certainly the case for Mark Mackmiller, CR, owner of mackmiller design+build in Eden Prairie, Minn., who recently remodeled a split-level home for a mother who adopted three special needs children under the age of nine.

Eight-year-old Billy, who has cerebral palsy, is a quadriplegic and needs assistance with daily washing and dressing. A larger, more functional bathroom and bedroom area would ease daily grooming tasks and still work for the rest of the family.

“This bathroom project is the cornerstone for Billy’s independence to live as quadriplegic now and in the future,” Mackmiller said. “Without it, personal hygiene and care would become increasingly difficult as he grows.”

Mackmiller’s design team’s challenge was to convert the original 29-square-foot bathroom into a 60-square-foot space that would incorporate elements of universal design and consider the needs of everyone using the space.  Mackmiller used elements of universal design for the project:

  • Entries and main rooms are built without steps; main living areas, such as the kitchen, sleeping and bathing areas, are on one level;
  • doorways are built wider, 32 to 36 inches wide;
  • hallways are also widened to 36 to 42 inches wide;
  • and extra floor space is allotted so that wheelchairs have more space to turn.

Bathroom with fold down changing tableThis project was designed with short and long-term goals. The new lower level of the house features a new bath and bedroom for Billy, along with the kitchen and family room. His mom’s long-term plan is to move out of the house when Billy is an adult with an onsite caregiver living upstairs. Billy would share the kitchen and dining room with the caretaker.

Mackmiller doubled the size of the bathroom by nabbing space from the family room and the bathroom. “We clipped a corner of the bedroom and shrank a closet,” Mackmiller said. “We relocated the bedroom door that was very close to the front door to the clipped corner and increased the door size to 36 inches.”

In the bath, a new curbless shower eases access to the wash space. Installing a hand-held shower with a 10-foot hose, in addition to the normal shower head attached to the wall, lets the caregivers to direct the flow of water where needed. Grab bars in the shower and a new comfort height toilet provide safety for the family’s grandfather, who visits often. An ADA-approved sink, lever faucet handles and a tilt mirror are useful for the entire family.

One of the room’s special features is a 28 x 59-inch retractable changing table that drops down from the wall so that Billy’s mom and caregivers can more easily change him in the bathroom. A portable hoist on a ceiling track helps move Billy to and from his shower chair, changing table and wheelchair.

Bathroom with fold down changing table - openThe bath also has a heated floor that can be adjusted to keep the space at a higher temperature than the rest of the house. “Kids with cerebral palsy have trouble regulating their body temperatures,” Mackmiller explained. “Being in a warm shower and bath keeps Billy from shuffling between temperature extremes.”

Aesthetically, the new bath blends in with the rest of the house and features warm-hued tiles, attractive bath furnishings and accessories. “When you think ‘handicapped accessible’ you usually think ‘clinical, ugly and sterile,’ and this bathroom is anything but that,” Mackmiller said. “We selected nice colors, and the whole room is one that anyone would feel comfortable showering in.”

“Having the bathroom adapted to meet his specific needs has been extremely helpful to our whole family,” said Billy’s mom. “It makes bathing, toileting and grooming so much easier on him as well as his caregivers.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. The table feature is very cool, I was a little confused at first looking at just the picture until I read the explanation. Nice remodeling job, and challenge met!

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