Scrub-a-dub-dub, just not in a tub. Why aren't bathtubs universally friendly? (We've uncovered ONE possible exception at the end of this post.) Tubs in general aren't safe because you must lift your legs and lower yourself in, which means there's a period of being off balance or a threat of falling. Walk-in tubs aren't much of a solution because you must sit there, often times chilled, while the water pours and empties, and the units traditionally leak. We recommend against other than the exception alluded to above.
While your kitchen should be the most convenient room in the house, your master bath (at a minimum) should be the safest. This is the first in a series of posts about preparing bathrooms for lifetime use by accounting for most any circumstance.
Agin, we're not anti-tub per se but bathtubs are potentially dangerous so, as with building ramps, we try to avoid unless the client insists. I wrote previously that no house can be perfectly "universal" and standard bathtubs, even the low wall models, are the prime example.
Why are tubs problematic? Because you're transferring your body into and out of a potentially slippery environment over the tub's wall, this is an obstacle even for the "average person". Maybe at some point you'll have limited mobility or even need to be lifted into the tub; but, even if you're entirely healthy and able bodied, there's still the chance of tripping/slipping and falling. So tubs pose a major accessibility problem regardless of your age or ability, nearly the opposite of what being universally designed is about because of the potential among ALL people to suddenly lose control. Tubs aren't even easy for someone assisting another person because the helper has to stoop, kneel and bend over.
If you insist on a tub, and I enjoy a soaking bath every so often, here's one that was specifically engineered to accommodate any person of any ability or mobility. Kohler's Elevance Rising Wall Bath was developed specifically for aging-in-place with special attention paid to filling and emptying quickly and being watertight. These units aren't cheap, around $10,000 a pop, but come the closest to providing a safe, secure and comfortable bath.
I delve next into proactive space planning of your bathroom.
President Todd Hawkins preaches building science and Universal Design (UD) to teach the benefits of an efficient, convenient, comfortable and flexible Lifetime Home. Also follow him on Twitter @BuilderFish for short tips about how kid-friendly UD makes home life easier and more secure for any person of any age or ability.