Crimes against Design: The Bathroom

Last month thousands of design enthusiasts headed to the capital for London’s annual Design Festival. Braving the drizzle on a […]

Last month thousands of design enthusiasts headed to the capital for London’s annual Design Festival. Braving the drizzle on a grey Sunday, Enabled by Design-athon attendee Rob Etheridge joined a panel of designers for a light-hearted discussion about some of the designs which miss the mark, a talk appropriately named ‘Design Crimes’, or ‘Design Crime5’ (spot the crime there).

Whilst I love to celebrate great design, I was intrigued to see which designs would make the top 5 offenders list having trickled into mass production when perhaps they shouldn’t have.

Led by Max Fraser, Deputy Director of the London Design Festival, the panel of judges put forward 5 design crimes each before handing over judgement of the worst offender to the audience…

Among the offenders, the plethora of ‘keep calm and carry on’ merchandise came under fire for recycling and trivialising the sentiment of the Second World War. Condiment sachets received a battering for inaccurate sauce splatter and the notorious supermarket self checkout was awarded a trophy for requiring as much man power as the human-manned checkout it’s replaced.

This led me to consider which designs in the accessibility and assistive design market might be worthy of such an accolade. Thoughtful design has the power to improve the environment around us, to make people safer and drive social change, so I’ve detailed a few of the worst design crimes in the world of accessibility. Thanks go to our online community for their input, too.

Shower Stool

At number 5, we have the humble shower stool.

For people needing greater support, seating in the shower is essential but it doesn’t have to look as austere as this. We recently spoke to a lady who had been given a stool for her shower which was both difficult to lift in and out and had rusted, staining the floor. The small surface area doesn’t offer much support, either. We would recommend a stylish folding wall-mounted shower seat instead.

Toilet Frame & Raised Toilet Seat


4. The toilet frame and raised toilet seat

Found in many homes where residents have had a hip replacement, this local authority solution is ‘designed’ to support users getting on and off the WC. We speak to so many people who are too embarrassed to invite guests to their homes because of this type of equipment in the bathroom. The good news is that it doesn’t need to be like this as Motion designs comfort height wall-hung WC’s and chrome drop down rails that don’t require these frames.

Pedestal Basin


3. The pedestal basin

With wall-hung basins widely available, the pedestal basin design is now a dated way of disguising pipes and an unnecessary barrier to access. A wall-hung basin is universally accessible with extra clearance to allow everyone to sit or stand comfortably.


Bath Lift

2. The bath lift

The bathroom should be a place of sanctuary, free from the stress of the outside world. Unfortunately, many bath lifts have yet to adopt a design which fits this remit.

Shower Chair


1. The overall winner

The overall winner of our design crimes 5 is the mobile shower chair. It has yet to evolve from the clinical hospital look, whilst its bulky operation makes it difficult to use. The bane of users and OT’s alike, the mobile shower chair needs addressing sharpish.

Fortunately, there is work going on in this space. Alternatives are available and designers are listening to feedback from their audience. Check out my blog on design for graceful ageing which talks about some of the work of Brunel University’s young designers. There’s some exciting work underway which deserves to be amongst the many design ‘heroes’ the London Design Festival in the not-too-distant future.

Kindly written for Enabled by Design by Rob Etheridge, Communications Officer at  accessible home design business Motion