Beyond ADA Accessibility Requirements: Meeting Seniors’ Needs for Toilet Transfers

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Abstract

Purpose:

To identify the optimal spatial and dimensional requirements of grab bars that support independent and assisted transfers by older adults and their care providers.

Background:

Although research has demonstrated that toilet grab bars based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Standards do not meet the needs of older adults, the specific dimensional requirements for alternative configurations are unknown.

Methods:

A two-phased study with older adults and care providers in residential facilities was conducted to determine the optimal requirements for grab bars. Seniors and caregivers in skilled nursing facilities performed transfers using a mock-up toilet. In Phase 1, participants evaluated three grab bar configurations to identify optimal characteristics for safety, ease of use, comfort, and helpfulness. These characteristics were then validated for using ability-matched samples in Phase 2.

Results:

The optimal configuration derived in Phase 1 included fold-down grab bars on both sides of the toilet (14" from centerline [CL] of toilet, 32" above the floor, and extended a minimum of 6" in front of the toilet) with one side open and a sidewall 24" from CL of toilet on the other. Phase 2 feedback was significantly positive for independent and one-person transfers and somewhat lower, albeit still positive, for two-person transfers.

Conclusion:

The study provides substantial evidence that bilateral grab bars are significantly more effective than those that comply with current ADA Accessibility Standards. Findings provide specific spatial and dimensional attributes for grab bar configurations that would be most effective in senior facilities.

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