Wheelchairs and bathrooms – Showerbuddy

Wheelchairs and: bathrooms

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.

  • Are you, your loved one or a client someone that lives daily life in a wheelchair?

    If so, you’ll probably know about some of the challenges this can bring when it comes to the bathroom. In this guide we’ll dive into the world of self-propelled shower chairs and how they can bring a greater degree of independence in the bathroom.

    What suits you?

    Does a wheelchair style shower chair suit you/your client better?

    A lot of shower chairs on the market, including some of Showerbuddy’s range are designed to take effort off the user when getting into, using and exiting the shower. But with millions of disabled people in wheelchairs essentially living independently, there is no reason why they should not have the option to bring this same independence into shower. 

    If you or your client is looking for ways to retain as much autonomy in the bathroom as possible, we can suggest looking at a self-propelled shower chair.

  • MODEL SB6w :  Our wheelchair-styled design.

  • More: user control

  • How self propelled chairs can bring more control to the user

    Anyone familiar with the functions of a wheelchair will immediately see the resemblance in a self-propelled shower chair. With large drive wheels at the back and stabilising caster wheels at the front, this format of shower chair brings a natural approach to bathing.

    Once in the chair, the user can, provided there are no barriers on the floor, transfer into the chair in another room, navigate into the bathroom, prepare then enter a roll-in style shower (barrier free).

    There, they’re able to use the steering of the drive wheels to maneuver and bathe. After this the user simply exits and dries off. This can all be done without the help of a carer, depending on the degree of mobility impairment.

Product functions

  • Look at commode integration with wheelchair style shower chairs

    A wheelchair-style or ‘self-propelled’ shower chair should also offer the added bathroom capability of a commode opening. Using the toilet should be as easy as showering. Rather than make another risky transfer between a wheelchair and an installed raised toilet seat, you should choose a self-propelled system that allows clearance over a toilet. Users can literally not leave their chair and complete an entire bathroom routine safely and comfortably. 

    Some users, even those with a regular carer, may prefer the wheelchair style shower chair. They may also benefit from a chair that has a built in commode bucket for use away from the bathroom should it be needed.

    Having this option just helps to extend the valuable life of the chair even further, should the individual have these needs down the track.

    Bathtub style showering – why transfers into a shower chair need to be straightforward

    Of course, not all wheelchair users will have a bathroom with a wet room, roll-in style configuration. In this scenario, we’d recommend opting for our transfer style systems. Instead of transferring from a wheelchair, over a series of hazardous barriers and onto an in-shower seat, a transfer system will consist of a chair, bridge and shower base.

    Safer transfers

    The idea here is that users can be safely transferred from the wheelchair into shower chair outside the bathroom and brought into the bathroom, already safely positioned in the chair. Then, the chair is attached to a bridge which allows smooth access into the bathtub or barrier shower onto a base.

    More independence

    The great part about these transfer systems is that all the features that make them great for carers such as the swivel, arm and foot rests, also make the chairs ideal for a partially mobile user who wants to manage the majority of their bathing alone. 

    We have many in our community who use Showerbuddy almost entirely solo, providing an important sense of freedom for those navigating a tricky rehabilitation journey or new reality living with lifelong mobility impairment.

  • Features to think about

  • Shower wheelchair features to look out for

    If you’ve determined that a wheelchair style shower chair is right for you or your client, here’s what to look for as you research options:

    • Comfort – does the chair provide a good degree of back and seat comfort over an extended bathroom visit?
    • Brakes – can the chair be locked down in place to prevent tipping over?
    • Compact – is the chair narrow enough to maneuver around a roll-in shower  but still big enough to support natural bathing movements?
    • Good quality materials – check the quality of the parts, fixtures and overall construction. Any shortcuts here might be a sign of failure when you least need it.
  • Common bathroom: challenges

  • Common bathroom challenges with a wheelchair + basic shower chair combination

    While a basic, low cost shower chair may be tempting to try, there’s a whole bunch of reasons why it’s not a good idea:

    • Transferring from a wheelchair into a basic shower stool is highly risky due to the effort clearing the edge of the shower/bath unit.
    • As weight is distributed onto the shower chair, a low cost option may lack the stability to stay in place, slipping over and causing injury during transfer
    • Getting out of the in-shower stool and back onto the wheelchair is even riskier, with a wet slippery environment.
    • The standard wheelchair will remain in the bathroom, potentially being damaged from excessive moisture.
    • You will still need to rely upon separate toilet access equipment which again creates more opportunities for hazardous manual transfers
    • More carer support is needed with movements that do present injury risks.

Learn more about Showerbuddy’s Roll-in range offering: wheelchair-style movement 

We have designed an incredible self-propelled wheelchair style shower chair that is the choice of thousands globally. Learn more about our SB6w Roll-inBuddy Solo, with precise handling and all the key comfort and functions of the rest of the Showerbuddy range.

Helpful Guides: Learn more in these related guides

  • Shower transfers – advice for safe, comfortable bathing

  • Finding a shower chair for an elderly user

  • How a roll-in shower chair works

  • The difference between Shower Stools and Shower Chairs

  • Shower chairs for disabled people – things to know