How a roll-in shower chair works – Showerbuddy

How a roll-in: shower chair works

The information in this guide is intended as general information only and is not a replacement for official health guidance by your local medical providers. Please always consult an occupational therapist and/or local healthcare for more specific guidance.

  • A ‘roll-in’ shower is what the mobility equipment and disabled community often use to refer to an open plan, wet room style shower.

    The idea behind a bathroom with a roll-in shower configuration is that access is very easy with the help of good wheel-based assistive equipment like a shower chair. These shower chairs are also commonly known as ‘rolling’ shower chairs thanks to their wheelchair style design. 

    In this guide we’ll cover the features of a rolling or roll-in shower chair and why they are a good option for anyone with a compatible bathroom or schedule that takes them to many places over the year.

  • MODEL SHOWN – SB3t: An extremely sturdy design with built-in head and arm rests, and a tilting function to recline the user.

  • Shower chair: styles

  • Roll-in shower chairs come in different styles

    When we talk about the category of rolling or roll in chairs, this is actually a reasonably broad product space. The configuration at its core is a chair with caster and/or drive wheels that can be moved around the bathroom and beyond with the user seated in this. 

    A roll in shower chair’s main function is to comfortably support the user to bathe each day and provide easy use for a carer. Some options are even designed to put the control completely in the hands of the user with products like our Roll-InBuddy Solo offering a familiar wheelchair style chair with all the water-proof functions of other shower chairs. 

    As users with mobility needs come in all different sizes, you can find a roll-in shower chair that suits you. Some options like the Roll-InBuddy XXL are designed for larger users to enjoy a shower without the worry of unsafe hazardous body position or lack of support. 

    And if you’ve got a client or are a user yourself that requires a tilted back body position to effectively bathe, you can look at tilting options like the SB3T. This chair provides the neck and feet support to keep the user comfortably in place, while tilting back to provide relief or simply assist the carer in completing the bathroom routine. 

    As you research a rolling shower chair, make a point to assess the features and functions, but also the dimensions of the chair and the quality of the wheels. A rolling chair relies heavily upon its wheels to function so you should choose a chair that will support the weight and usage for the long term. This is also why we suggest finding an option that comes with a warranty – assistive technology should give you peace of mind that it will last or be covered in the event something does go wrong.

  • Easy shower: access

  • Access to the shower is made easy

    One of the best reasons to opt for a roll-in shower and compatible chair is just how straightforward access is for a mobility impaired user. A traditional bathtub or shower with an edge provides a barrier that requires clearing (you can read more about transfer equipment here), but an open plan shower is a matter of rolling up and into a prepared shower to bathe.

    When a shower has better access, there’s more control over body position and the process of bathing is a lot smoother. Bathrooms with an open plan style also don’t need as much floor space to enable practical usage as the shower itself becomes part of the space the user and their carer can move in. The lack of obstacles is why many purpose built homes for elderly or people with disabilities are designed as wet floor style.

  • Product: Functions

  • Wheels that provide maneuverability and ease of transfer

    A rolling shower chair is built with wheels at the base that allow motion forward, backwards and typically 360 rotation (enabled by swivelling caster wheels). Wheels on a rolling shower chair should be made from highly water proof materials like stainless steel fittings and good quality rubber or plastic. 

    Wheels on a roll-in compatible showering seat will come under the most daily workload, supporting the body weight of the user, coming into contact with textured and wet surfaces coming under tension during transfers on and off of the chair. It’s why you should not compromise on wheel design or quality for a shower chair.If you choose a self-propelled option like the Roll-InBuddy Solo, the chair will combine the smaller caster wheels for positioning with large drive wheels, similar to a standard wheelchair. The drive wheels must be designed to allow grip and control before, during and after the shower. If a user cannot properly control a solo shower chair without someone else around, the product will not meet one of its core purposes – to enable mobility impaired users shower themselves without the assistance of a family member or carer.

    Locking the chair in place with braking system

    A shower chair with wheels permanently affixed needs to have a way to safely lock onto the floor of a wet room shower so that the user can move around in the chair whilst bathing without fear of the unit slipping or rolling away.

    This function can be achieved in a number of ways. For some chairs caster wheels have individual foot operated brakes that a carer would lock down into place. Other chairs have a hand operated brake located at the top handle of the chair or by the drive wheels in the case of a self-propelled chair. 

    Brakes may be designed as simply mechanical locking or operated through the use of hydraulics similar to a bike brake. 

    The braking ability of a rolling shower chair really is the area that simply cannot be compromised. Failure to securely remain stationary during a hazardous process like showering can result in an injury.

    Take precaution when the bathroom floor has a build-up of soap film which can make the chair wheels slide on the surface,even with brakes applied. This film may not be noticeable to the eye but can affect safety. Check with the flooring supplier for the best way to clean the surface correctly, to assist in better stability of the chair.

  • On the: move

  • Pack down and travel

    If you, your client or family member is a keen traveller or visits different houses regularly, a roll in shower chair is a great choice. Most tourist destinations and accommodation that offer disabled bathroom facilities do so with an open plan shower. This makes the roll-in style chair the one to go for. 

    Some mobility impaired individuals opt for a roll-in style chair for packing down and taking on the go, combined with a bigger transfer style chair for at home in a bathroom with a shower unit or bathtub. Many Showerbuddy users are fans of this combination as it offers the best of both worlds. The SB7e Eco Traveller specifically is designed to pack down into a small carry bag with a minimal footprint to allow transporting in cars, buses, planes and trains. It’s also a very light package, meaning that a family member or carer can carry it without much trouble at all.

    The SB7e Eco Traveller is also great when you want to pack away the chair into a storage closet when not in use, for example when you have the chair available for a family member who might need assistance when visiting.

    Having your own roll-in shower system to take with you provides peace of mind with a system you can become familiar with, as well as the comfort and hygiene benefits of ‘BYO’.

  • Reduce: injury risk

  • A good option for a carer-assisted daily bathroom routine

    Rolling shower chairs are excellent for individuals who require a carer as the transfer onto the chair can be done outside of the bathroom in a safer environment. The user can then be wheeled into the bathroom ready for bathing and using the toilet in the same system (if using a Showerbuddy product). If the user and carer don’t have to manage any lifts in the bathroom, there’s a greatly reduced chance of injury due to straining muscles or falls.

    When a carer is required to assist with the bathing process itself, a roll in chair can help to keep the user securely in place (sometimes with the help of seatbelts) while they are being washed. Carers love the roll in options in an open shower because of how simply they can spin the unit around to gain better access to the user. With carers commonly suffering injuries when supporting clients’ in precarious positions, the roll-ing style shower chair really makes a big difference to personal safety and effective bathroom assistance.Using the toilet is another key function that a shower chair system should provide. A carer should be able to help the user position over the toilet and then offer their client privacy. Choosing a roll-in style chair with commode system and seat opening can bring this dignity to carers’ clients with no additional effort on the carer’s part.

Learn more about Showerbuddy’s range of: roll-in shower chairs

Are you interested in a shower chair solution that doesn’t just provide users with more comfort and support during bathing, but a totally strain-free transfer system and full commode solution? Head over to our products section to browse the range.

Helpful Guides: Learn more in these related guides

  • Wheelchairs & Bathrooms

  • Shower transfers – advice for safe, comfortable bathing

  • Finding a shower chair for an elderly user

  • The difference between Shower Stools and Shower Chairs

  • Shower chairs for disabled people – things to know