07. August 2017
With his "Wings for Handicapped" association, paraplegic JÖrg Leonhardt from Reiskirchen (Hessen, Germany) has spent many years trying to brighten the lives of handicapped people.
In order to make his club premises more fit for purpose, JÖrg once again demonstrated the level of commitment and creativity sometimes required, particularly when the project involved the conversion of an architecturally "questionable" galley bathroom from the 70s into a barrier-free area. It goes without saying that achieving this required a level-access shower that was to be fitted over and drained via a Dallmer "CeraWall Individual" shower channel.
The building that houses the club rooms of the "Wings for Handicapped" ("W4H") Association in Reiskirchen, Hessen was built at the beginning of the 70s - and architecturally speaking, it was easy to tell. Doors and toilets too narrow, too many stairs - JÖrg was facing a Herculean task. As a wheelchair user himself, it was easy for him at first viewing to identify where the key weak points of the premises lay from the perspective of a physically challenged person: "At the time of building the premises, barrier-free accessibility was simply not an issue. Thank goodness some things have changed, particularly when it comes to building bathrooms. While comfort and convenience are primarily at the forefront when building level-access showers, we wheelchair users automatically profit from this trend."
However, 70s architecture was oblivious to this concept of convenience and, as is the case with JÖrg's club premises, builders tended to install long narrow bathrooms with a shower somewhere at the end underneath a window. This generally causes great hardship for wheelchair users as these types of bathrooms are usually too narrow to even enter. And if they are actually able to reach the shower, the barrier of an approximately 40 cm high shower tray would be a further insurmountable obstacle.
Shortage of upside space
While the intention was to build a completely new level-access shower, the technical limitations were immediately apparent: a room width of not quite 1.20 metres was not enough to meet the standard requirements for "accessibility for disabled people". Added to this was the installation height required for the drain - because the surface structure, which also determined the height of the screed and the height of the room were all that of a typical 70s building. JÖrg: "Whichever way you looked - up or down - there wasn't much room for any type of drainage."
And rather than optically reducing the narrow room still further using small tile cuts, he hoped the use of homogeneous, large-area tiles would make the bathroom seem as large and spacious as possible. So while conventional point drainage, for example, would not have been sensible in this case anyway, it also generally makes life hard for wheelchair users as it makes manoeuvring more difficult.
However, JÖrg knew exactly how to solve this problem while also achieving the best possible outcome, both aesthetically and technically: "My father's house already has a level-access shower, which is fitted with a Dallmer shower channel. Based on my positive experiences with this shower, it was clear to me that the only option was to build the same type of drainage solution into the club premises."
And that decision was made even easier thanks to the fact that the DallFlex drain body enables my first choice of shower channel - the "CeraWall Individual" - to be installed with an ultra-low installation height of just 65 mm. That is flat enough to enable the installation of a level-access shower even in a 70s house - and still achieve a drainage capacity of approx. 0.5 l/s - which is generally more than enough for classic shower systems.
However, the deciding factor in favour of this drain option was the fact that the "CeraWall Individual" drain can be installed visually and technically so that it is virtually invisible: the slim stainless steel profile, barely a finger wide, creates a fluid, virtually invisible, transition between floor and wall, which enables the large-format tiles to be laid along the full length and breadth of the bathroom without intrusive cuts and with a barely discernible slope to wall. The almost invisible slope to drain milled into the shower channel ensures the reliable drainage of even larger volumes of water.
Furthermore, the front-of-wall drainage system also enables the entire drainage technology - in this case the "DallFlex" drain body ‑ to be placed on the unfinished floor in this area and embedded in the floating screed. The area used when taking a shower is therefore completely outside any installation, which makes it far more wheelchair-friendly and easy to manoeuvre. The drain has been designed so that it is robust enough to withstand increased impact loads caused by a wheelchair or a stool. And in a different installation scenario, the option is always still open to position the drain in the middle of the level-access shower.
Thanks to the unique design of the stainless steel shower channel, Dallmer has also ensured a clear interface between sanitary installation and tiling. Background: in the first step of the installation, the clear separation of drain body and drain profile enables the drain to be set in the unfinished floor, connected to the drainage pipe and aligned. The screed is then poured and the permanently secure bonded waterproofing established via a flexible sealing sleeve.
In the next step installation is taken over by the tiler, who places the slim stainless steel profile of the "CeraWall Individual" in the adhesive bed and lays the tiles flush up to the profile. The key advantage: the minimalist drain profile rests evenly and completely stably on the screed and both tiler and HVAC specialist have their assigned tasks during waterproofing so that there is no conflict of responsibility.
More creativity desired
These days, the old "galley bathroom" in the new club premises of the "W4H" is barely recognisable - truly an all-round success that is both highly functional and aesthetically pleasing. It is an outstanding example of what can be achieved with planning skills and the right products - in this case, among others, a Dallmer shower channel - and how they can be leveraged to produce functional rooms that make the most of every centimetre, without proving too costly or labour-intensive. JÖrg commented, "In this sensitive area in particular, it would be nice to see more creativity - and courage - especially in new builds. The conversion of our club premises, including special features like the level-access shower and heavy-duty shower channel, just goes to prove how little is required to make the everyday lives of people with disabilities that much easier!"
When JÖrg Leonhardt founded his association in April 2000 with its headquarters in Reiskirchen, Hessen, he called it "Wings for Handicapped". He also sees the name as part of the programme: to be the wind beneath the wings of disabled people. Perhaps also with just a nod to the Austrian pop manufacturer whose drink supposedly "gives you wings". But with a far more serious background: now 51, JÖrg has been paralysed from the chest down since he was 18 years old following a traffic accident. He had just passed his driving test in 1983 when he hit a curve at 140 km/h …
However: JÖrg was determined to bounce back - after all, as a child he had always wanted to be a stuntman. And, says JÖrg, you don't just abandon your dreams. These days, he drives a motor boat, dives, parachutes, takes off in planes and hang-gliders and, as runner-up in the European wheelchair basketball championships, also took part in the Paralympics in Sydney. Today he truly is the wind beneath the wings of many disabled people - encouraging them to live their dreams by living his: for example, with the "Hoppetosse", a rubber dinghy driven by 300 PS motor - a huge attraction of the "W4H" club that is supported by many donors from industry.
For more information on the "W4H" club, please visit www.w4h.de
The old shower at the "W4H" club premises: a typical 70s galley bathroom, long and narrow and completely unsuitable for wheelchairs. (photo: Dallmer GmbH + Co. KG)
A pre-wall system, large-format, light-coloured tiles and the new level-access shower in front of the window with the "CeraWall Individual" drainage system - even during the renovation work it was possible to see how spacious the almost barrier-free bathroom would finally appear. (photo: Dallmer GmbH + Co. KG)
The galley bathroom post-renovation: open, light and wheelchair-friendly. (photo: Dallmer GmbH + Co. KG)
The load-bearing walls cannot be moved - but skilful landscaping and fittings have created sufficient space to make the bathroom completely accessible to wheelchair users. (photo: Dallmer GmbH + Co. KG)
Just a discreet strip along the wall - but with impressive drainage capacity: the Dallmer "CeraWall Individual" shower channel enables barrier-free accessibility in the new bathroom and the attractive minimalist design creates a further illusion of space. (photo: Dallmer GmbH + Co. KG)
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