Look at the picture. Any guesses? What if I told you it supports 250 pounds? Give up? That soap dish a "grab bar". Would you have known if I hadn't told you?
That's the essence of Universal Design, done well it's unnoticed. One of the main objections about installing grab bars, "It'll make my bathroom look like a hospital or nursing home" is simply misperception based on where most people first saw grab bars (i.e. hospitals and nursing homes!).
But let's forget about seniority and simply think about convenience, if you're a runner and want to stretch, wouldn't it be handy to have this kind of support? Ladies, ordinarily what do you hold onto when you shave your legs? If you're going to have bathroom fixtures, why not have them support your full weight if you must reach out and grab something?
If you've imagined safety bars as just horizontal white plastic or silver metal rods, then take a look at Great Grabz for examples of how these "balance bars", which also serve as handy towel racks, come in multiple decorative and ergonomic choices in a variety of flanges, finials and finishes. Another recent innovation is the treatment during manufacture with an epoxy powder of the antimicrobial, Saniguard, to inhibit bacteria, mold and mildew and therefore preventing the deterioration of the finish or fingerprints.
Aside from style, the typical diameter of safety bars is 1.5 inches but 1.25 inches may work better for people with smaller hands (children and many women) or for anyone with a weakened grip. Look for an ergonomic model that enables support or propping by forearm. The bar should have at most 1.5 inches of clear space between the wall and inside edge of the bar.
Make sure you select one that supports more than 250 pounds of force and has adjustable mounts so the installer can align with studs, but the rest is personal preference. (Remember the entire wall should be backed with 3/4 inch plywood or similar blocking particularly in new construction. Shouldn't cost extra given how much gets pitched on a job site.)
Safety bars make your shower safer and more convenient, and they look sharp too.
Great Grabz Wave
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.