Safe, Fiberglass Showers Provide ADA Compliance, Many Returns for the Hospitality Industry

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New fiberglass showers with grab bars meet ADA access requirements, provide added safety for growing number of senior and disabled travelers.

The best of today's fiberglass shower units offer innovative design features and accessories that provide comfort and safety while assuring compliance with ADA standards

With 60 million U.S. seniors comprising 25% of the travel market and 49 million disabled Americans sharing similar safety and access concerns in hotels and motels, it's good business to accommodate their special lodging needs. In response to those concerns and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access requirements, the hospitality industry is finding new ways to address the comfort and safety needs of disabled and elderly guests.

Hoteliers, architects and contractors, for instance, are rethinking their choice of bathing enclosures. Applying the designs and technologies embraced by hospitals, senior housing, and universal access facilities -- which make extensive use of pre-molded fiberglass shower systems -- is better protecting and accommodating guests while saving on overall costs.

"The best of today's fiberglass shower units offer innovative design features and accessories that provide comfort and safety while assuring compliance with ADA standards," says Jon Franklin, Senior Project Architect and Vice President of FKP Architects, Inc., Houston, TX.

Best Bath Systems of Boise, Idahorecently introduced a line of fiberglass reinforced composite showers that eliminates the need for "mud setting" low-threshold, accessible showers. They come with 1/2-inch, heavy-duty plywood backing on the walls into which grab bars and other safety accessories can be securely affixed. Unique to this new grade of shower modules is increased structural integrity, made possible by a more substantial laminate schedule and total encapsulation of the plywood core. This innovation substantially lengthens expected shower life while lowering installation and maintenance costs.

An important test of the safety of fiberglass showers is the ability of handrails to support heavy pulling loads, in case a stout guest pulls hard against them.

"We specified these showers for Oaks Surgical Hospital in Thousand Oaks because their heavy plywood backing can withstand the impact and weight on hand rails and grab bars," says Bob Herzog, AIA with Boulder Associates. "Most safety bars are designed to withstand a 200-lb. lateral load without ripping off the wall. Our visitors, who typically weigh 300-400 lbs., may exceed that, and our Best Bath shower units can handle those extra loads."

Meeting ADA compliance and state accommodation requirements where removal of architectural barriers is "readily achievable" is yet another reason why hoteliers need to address shower safety and access. Increasingly, state laws are reinforcing federal laws in prohibiting discrimination against those with disabilities in facility design and construction.

Convinced that a fiberglass shower could best meet safety, access, cost and appearance requirements, as well as efficient construction methods, owner/general contractor Paul Pippenger specified fiberglass showers for his new 50-unit Best Western motel in Orofino, ID.

"Accessibility is a very big deal now with hotel and motel construction," says Pippenger. "Travelers want showers with low-profile thresholds so seniors can step over them safely. They certainly don't like to climb over the high sides of tub-showers. With the Best Bath showers we're able to provide easier access and an added measure of safety."

With so much future business riding on accommodating seniors and disabled travelers while meeting ADA compliance and state access requirements, savvy hoteliers are finding that new fiberglass shower systems providing what's needed.

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Jeff Mooney
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