‘Hand Up’ Rails, Assists, and Handles

It is an unconscious movement for an able-bodied person to reach for a stair handrail when using stairs. However, for people with visual impairments, balance, and walking/movement difficulties, handrails are an essential aid. The functional use of rails/grab rails/handles extends into toilet areas, bathrooms, showers, adjacent to beds, couches, and in cars.

A vertical handrail is used to assist a person to pull themselves up into standing position or down into a sitting position. A horizontal handle is used for pushing down on to assist a person to lift themselves into a standing position. The assisted/paraplegic bathroom grab rails combine vertical, forty-five-degree angle, and horizontal positions in one rail.

It is important for the grab rails to be securely attached to the wall. The space between the wall and handhold on the rail is between 4 – 6,5cm in size for good grip purposes. The diameter of the grabrail measures between 3 – 4,5cm in width. Most often in South Africa, the grab rails are manufactured with a stainless-steel satin finish. In other countries, coated and plastic finishes are available. These provide more variety in the choice of colour and interior colour options. In Britain, a set of grab rails for accessible toilets known as DocMgrab are available in white, blue, grey, and charcoal. These colours include the RAL number (colour matching system used in Europe) and the LRV (light reflectance value) of the colours (21 May 2019, Quantify contrast in colour with light reflectance value).

Other examples of useful handles are:
• Bed assist handle;
• Toilet assists;
• Single leg couch support;
• Two leg couch support;
• Car handle support.

Some Medical Aid Schemes’ In South Africa include an allowance for the installation of handrails in a home environment as well as for other ‘external appliances’ used by people with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and mobility scooters. It is best to call the medical aid first when planning to put up rails as they may have preferred suppliers for equipment. A request for authorisation to the medical aid must include a letter of motivation from a relevant therapist, for example an occupational or physiotherapist and a quote from the supplier. These quotes must include an appropriate NAPPI code.
Assistive handrails can also be purchased directly from retail pharmacies, building suppliers, bathroom and sanitary shops. +


  1. I love listening to your very informative articles. Thanks again for adding alt text so I can know what is in the pictures.

    I love the idea of high contrast rails, especially in dark stairwells.


  2. Thank you for all the info, I struggle with my balance and the having grab rails would definitely assist me especially in the shower, Thank you.


    Karen Williams


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