CMHC Research Highlight: Grab-bar Preferences Study

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) sent a link to a Grab-Bar study in their e-newsletter this week.

The study’s objectives were to:

1) determine if and how people actually use toilet grab bars; 2) determine which configuration was more effective in facilitating safe toilet transfers; 3) determine if the grab bar configuration used had an influence on loading of the lower extremities; and 4) identify barriers to the acceptance and use of toilet grab bars.

They built a washroom for the study itself:

An artificial bathroom was designed for this study, consisting of two standard-height, 43-cm (17in.) public toilets. Placed directly in front of the toilets were two 25- by 100-cm (10- by 40-in.) pressure-sensitive floor mats, one for each foot, which were positioned beside each other so that they extended lengthwise away from the front of the toilet. These pressure-sensitive floor mats were connected to a computer via a USB cable, and data was collected digitally. In addition to the floor mats, six toilet grab bar configurations were built around the two toilets: a commode (C); two vertical toilet grab bars (2VB), one bolted to the floor and one fixed to the wall; one vertical bar (1VB); a horizontal toilet grab bar (H) fixed to the left side wall; two swing-away toilet grab bars (S) fixed to the rear wall; and a diagonal toilet grab bar (D) fixed to the right wall. These were used to aid in sitting down and standing up from the toilet. The C, 2VB, 1VB and H configurations were built around the first toilet, and the S and D toilet grab bars were built around the second toilet. Each toilet grab bar configuration was instrumented with pressure sensors which were built into polyethylene foam and wrapped around the toilet grab bars. The seat of the commode was raised to 50 cm (20 in.) high, so that it just cleared the toilet seat, but all other configurations used the standard 43-cm (17-in.) high toilet seat.

The result was:

While different population groups preferred different toilet grab bars, all groups involved in this study least preferred the horizontal bar, which is currently the CSA-recommended bar. When asked to consider helpfulness, ease of use, safety, comfort and likeliness of installation, the horizontal grab bar fared poorly. In fact, in all participant groups, not using an assistive device was rated more highly by study participants than using a horizontal bar.

While the study notes that if people don’t like a grab bar, they don’t tend to use it, I would like to know what studies led to the horizontal bar approved by the CSA (Canadian Safety Authority).

Also, I would like to know if similar studies have been done for urinals, and the grab bars around them.

What’s your experience with grab bars? Do you have a personal preference and why?


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2 thoughts on “CMHC Research Highlight: Grab-bar Preferences Study

  1. Well, as an independent living advocate (in a former job), I promoted their inclusion in designs for motels etc. Now, sixteen years later, I’m a stroke survivor, not so steady on my feet sometimes, and I’ve come to depend on them. I give thanks that my townhouse was first occupied by an elderly woman and has several such things built-in.


    • Thanks for your comment. When my parents were renovating their bathrooms I told them to put the supports in the wall so if they needed to later they could add them. It’s easier to retrofit a space when the work behind the walls is already done.


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