By Marissa Horanic
We’re used to seeing the larger stall at the end of the row in public restrooms, or the separate bathroom with a little stick figure family on the sign. But what exactly is an accessible restroom?
An accessible restroom is a restroom that can accommodate many different disabilities and abilities. According to ADA Accessibility Guidelines, an accessible restroom should include many different features depending on the facility, but not all do. For example, a workplace has different ADA requirements than a retail store when it comes to restrooms. Ideally, all restrooms should be accessible, and should have all of the following features and design aspects.
Space for wheelchair access
One of the most heard of is the size component of stalls and single restrooms. The goal is to have enough space for wheelchair access. Any restroom or accessible toilet stall must have a clear floor space measuring usually at least around 36 by 48 inches (again, depends on the type of facility), and must have enough room for a wheelchair user to make a 180° turn, even if that’s a three-point-turn. Accessible stalls should be large enough for a wheelchair user to maneuver comfortably.
When using a wheelchair, sinks installed at a normal height can be quite difficult to access. Sinks and counters should be no higher than 34 inches and should have enough space underneath for knee clearance. Additionally, any plumbing under the sink should be insulated or otherwise covered. Faucets for sinks, flush mechanisms for toilets, and any other knobs or valves in the restroom must be operable with one hand.
If a restroom has multiple urinals, at least one should be designed for use from a wheelchair. These urinals have elongated bowls with rims that extend no more than 17 inches from the floor, and flush controls should be no higher than 44 inches from the floor.
In a retail store’s restroom, there must be at least two grab bars installed: one behind/above the toilet, and one on at least one side wall of the toilet. Ideally, one on each wall would be necessary.
Doorways into bathrooms and stalls should be wide enough to accommodate for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. The most important thing to note with doors is that they should swing outwards, not inwards, to allow the open floor space to remain open.
While infant changing tables are necessary in public restrooms, adult changing tables have yet to receive the same sense of importance. Adult changing places are typically constructed as a durable platform that can be raised and lowered to more easily transfer someone who needs clothing, undergarments, or diapers changed. The process of changing is much easier and more comfortable for both the individual and potential caregiver with the use of a changing place, instead of having to do it on a public restroom floor. Check out our blog post about adult changing places in zoos!
Please remember that accessible stalls are not just for wheelchair users! People with different disabilities use accessible restrooms and stalls for a variety of reasons. Although these stalls are more spacious, please refrain from using them if you don’t have to.
You can find more information on ADA restroom requirements here: https://www.access-board.gov/ada/guides/chapter-6-toilet-rooms/