Toiletry – Bathroom accessibility

by tim1bgdpo

The Shower

Our master bath has a walk-in shower but it is small, there is a ledge that you must step over, and there are no grab bars.  I did a practice run before my surgery and rapidly figured out that the walk-in shower would not be usable.  There wasn’t enough room to maneuver with crutches or the knee scooter, and our shower chair would not fit.

My solution was to shower in the hall bath that has a shower in the tub.  I placed a non-skid rubber shower mat in the tub and then put the shower chair in the tub.  The clamp-on handle is on the edge of the tub.  I practiced knee-scootering up to the edge of the tub, getting undressed, and lowering myself, without the use of my surgery leg, into the shower chair prior to the surgery to make sure I could do it and also to work out the sequence of events.

To keep the cast dry, I use a cast shower protection plastic bag similar to this one.  When I ordered mine, I did not know how high my cast would come up my leg, so I bought the long one that reaches up the thigh.  I didn’t need one this long, but it still works fine.  The rubber gasket seal at the thigh opening is good, but I do not rely solely on this to keep my cast dry.  I stick the cast leg out of the tub under the shower curtain and rest the heel of the cast on my knee scooter.  So far, everything has remained dry.

Before the surgery, I installed a hand-held shower head like this one.  You have many options for style and finish, but there are also inexpensive models and you will definitely find it useful.  One tip:  After you install it, let the head hang down fully on the flexible hose, turn on the water so it’s spraying through the hand-held shower head, and close the shower curtain.  Make sure the spray does not escape the tub under these conditions.  This is the position the shower head will be in when you need your hands free during the shower and you do not want a very wet bathroom surprise the first time you exit the tub with your cast.  Make sure the water is turned on when you make this test.  The water pressure can make shower head move and rotate under the force of the spray.  If you need to make an adjustment, you should be able to loosen one end of the flexible hose, rotate the hose, tighten, and test again.

The Toilet

It can be a long way down to the sitting position when your knee or foot is compromised … and it’s even longer and harder to get back up to standing.  Changing to a taller toilet seat height has eased this problem for us.

I have tried two approaches:  adding a seat riser to an existing low toilet and replacing the toilet with a higher model.

Plastic toilet seat height risers

Unless your need is truly short-term, I would not bother with this approach.  The kind of risers I’m talking about are similar to this or this.

In our experience, they don’t always mount securely to the toilet, they are uncomfortable compared with the normal toilet seat, and they make cleaning the toilet more difficult.

Typical Life Cycle of a plastic toilet seat riser in our household:

  • Recognize the need for a taller toilet
  • Run out and buy a seat riser at a local store
  • Return home and clamp it onto the toilet
  • Try it
  • Re-tighten the riser
  • Try it again
  • Remove it
  • Gingerly clean it
  • Put it into a clean plastic trash bag and store it on the top shelf in your closet
  • Wait 18 months
  • Find it by accident one day when you are “… frantically looking for the birthday present that you are sure you bought for your Wife and hid in a very secure hiding place but can’t find it right now and her birthday is today and she will be home any minute …”
  • Throw the riser into the trash  (What?  You think you are going to sell this on Ebay?  What are your options for the sales pitch:  “Used only once”?  “Low mileage”? “Free to a good home”?  I don’t think so.)

True, I am being unfair.  Some of the riser models you can find online actually raise the existing toilet seat instead of replacing the existing seat.  Some of them appear to mount using the bolts that hold the existing seat to the bowl.  Some of them also have side handles.  I have not tried any of these versions.  Also in fairness, the risers I have tried appeared well manufactured from good materials.  They just did not work well with our toilets.

In spite of all this fairness, I recommend the following …

ADA height toilets

Install a taller toilet.  Swap out the whole porcelain fixture!  They work.  They look like a regular toilet.

ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act.  ADA height toilets are typically about two inches taller (measured from the floor up to the seat) than a standard toilet.

Which toilet to buy?

Go here for recommendations.  Great site.

Luckily, the first time I went looking for tall toilet recommendations online I found this site and made my model and brand decision based on their research.  I have not been disappointed and, yes, I said “research”.  These folks have tested many toilets under varying (how shall I say it?) loading conditions to determine which toilets work and which ones fail.

They used to have a downloadable PDF research report giving their analysis approach and results.  (I have not found this download lately and don’t know if it is still available online.)  They set up huge racks on which they could temporarily mount the toilets under test.  They measured the liquids, solids, and paper going in and the same items going out (or not, as the case may be).  They varied the load over typical ranges, made repeated measurements, and calculated statistical results.  I have been a thesis advisor to master’s degree engineering students who could have benefited from a study of their scientific methods and documentation standards.  They even included the recipe for their human solid waste surrogate, a bean curd if I remember correctly.  Perfect for a geek DIY’er.  I confess, I have not been tempted to try the recipe.

I think each new toilet I have purchased has been a Kohler Cimarron.  It’s not the highest rated model based on Love’s analysis, but it is very good and I have been completely satisfied.  Better yet, see the next section …

Where to get one?

Your local big box home store should have multiple brands and models from which to chose, and that is where I bought mine.


  1. Your plumber can install a replacement toilet, of course.
  2. If you have ever replaced a toilet or replace a leaking wax ring, you can replace your existing toilet with an ADA height toilet.  (If the previous sentence doesn’t make any sense, see number 1.)  There are many instructional web sites, for example here.

I have replaced toilet fixtures five or six times and installed new wax rings many more times over the years.  I have not had any problems.  It’s not a complex or hard job (except for the weight of the fixture), but I wouldn’t say it’s my most favorite home handyman task. 

Remember, you want to be a pre-OP prepper.  This is not a post-OP prepper job.

A good time to think about where you want to set down the old toilet bowl that you just picked up off the old wax ring would have been about ten minutes ago.  Don’t ask how I know this, just trust me.

Newspapers, old rags, buckets, and jumbo trash bags laid out next to your work area are your friends.  Yes, I do have specific recommendations for the best newspaper for this job, but that is the topic of a different blog.

You may have noticed that the plumbing aisle of your favorite store sells “regular” replacement wax rings and “extra thick” wax rings.  Maybe it’s just a scam to extract a few extra dollars from my wallet, but I don’t think leaks of any kind are an option for this task.  I go with the thick option.  As a matter of fact, I usually buy an extra one.  It’s nice to have parts on hand when your house is torn apart, the water supply is turned off, and you just messed up your penultimate wax ring.

On a related topic

The same plumbing company has user poll results on the toilet paper brands less, and more, likely to plug your toilet, see here.