Sunday, January 22, 2012

Special Needs Travel: Waterford Ireland Accessibility

My traveling in Southern Ireland was done mainly via sailboat with Dermot Greer from Sailing Ireland.  Great way to travel really, I took sailing lessons while sailing port to port on the Southern end of Ireland.  We sailed during the day and stopped at small fishing villages at night for food, pints and local music at the pubs.  Good fun and I learned a lot about the Irish, sailing and accessible facilities.

This post is about accessibility in Waterford, Ireland.  We stayed at the Waterford Marina, which had excellent accessible bathrooms complete with an accessible shower.  Photos and thoughts below:

First the toilet:

For some reason the tank on this toilet is raised, so there is a nice padded backrest.

As with all handicap accessible toilets I saw in Ireland, this toilet had a drop down grab bar on one side and a wall mount grab bar on the other side.  This set up is much different than the public handicap accessible toilets in the USA.

Toilet gets a ‘B+’:
·      Grab bars galore, great job.
·      Correct height.
·      Nice padded seat back.
·      Only downfall is the flushing lever is mounted high and a bit difficult to access.

Next we have the sink, grab bars on either side great for those who are ambulatory but require assistance with balance.  You don’t see grab bars like these in the USA.  The grab bars are an excellent idea with a wall mount sink like this one, if someone needs to lean on something for balance better the grab bars than the sink.  A wall mount sink like this one will come loose with too much downward pressure, kudos to Waterford.

Great universal design for the sink, it gets an ‘A’;
·      Insulated pipes under the sink.
·      Mirror mounted just above sink for use from wheelchair yet the mirror is tall enough for comfortable use by someone standing.
·      Grab bars on both sides of the mirror, perfect.
·      Easy to use lever faucet.

Shower:  Of course I tried out the shower, very comfortable but like almost all roll-in showers there was water all over the floor by the time I was done with my shower.  I used to think people just didn’t know how to slope a shower but I think maybe the reason there is always water on the floor with roll-in showers is because the shower drain doesn’t drain as fast as the water coming into the shower.  I notice with standard showers there always seems to be an inch or so of water at my feet.  

Roll-in showers need to be sloped a minimum of 1/4" per foot, it would be feasible for an inch of water in the shower would over run the sides on the shower and cause a wet floor.  Not safe.

Shower gets a ‘D’:
·      Flooring interesting, felt good on my bare feet and allowed for little to no water build-up in shower, however the shower floor had pools of standing water after the shower.
·      Water controls for the shower are in the white box, see photo, which is mounted too high for someone in a wheelchair to access.
·      Hand held shower bar, good work but a little too high to access.
·      Soap dish on shower bar, would be accessible if one had a long reach.
·      Grab bar, acceptable.

Last but not least the door to the bathroom gets a ‘B’
·      Door is 36”-wide, thumbs up.
·      Handle is easy to open even with poor fine motor skills no gripping needed.
·      The lock a great big thumbs down, its mounted in the right spot but requires accurate fine motor skills and good strength to operate.
·      The towel hooks are mounted at acceptable levels for both ambulatory and wheelchair users, good for all-universal design at its best.

If you are interested in sailing in seeing the ‘real’ Ireland off the beaten path I highly recommend ‘Sailing Ireland’ great value and memories that last a lifetime.  Hats off to Dermot Greer, Irishman and sailor extraordinaire.  Click here to see Sailing Ireland website.

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